District attorneys from San Diego, Riverside, Orange and Alameda counties joined forces today to support passage of a bill aimed at sparing human trafficking victims from having to testify at multiple trials in different jurisdictions, streamlining prosecutions and saving taxpayer dollars.
SB 939 is up for a committee vote Tuesday in Sacramento. Proponents expect the bill to pass in the Senate, then move through the Assembly and on to the governor's desk.
"Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world," said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "It is now ranked second only to narcotics trafficking in California."
Dumanis said SB 939 "would close loopholes, expand protection and spare victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation the trauma of facing their traffickers in multiple trials and re-living a nightmare in court over and over. We join our DA colleagues in sponsoring this legislation and urge its passage."
Victims of human trafficking and its related crimes are often exploited in different counties and cities across California to evade law enforcement detection and to increase profit for the perpetrators. Suspects are commonly part of organized criminal enterprises.
The bill would amend a penal code section to create a consolidated trial process for human trafficking-related offenses to mimic the prosecution of other crimes committed by serial perpetrators such as child molesters and rapists.
"Human trafficking is a heinous crime," said Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, the bill's author."Attacking the financially lucrative criminal enterprise cannot be fought one jurisdiction at a time. Human trafficking must be fought collectively: pooling our resources and intelligence and multiplying the impact of every effort. That's what this bill is about."
Recent statistics show the number of cases prosecuted under state sex trafficking statutes have more than tripled over the past four years in San Diego County. Last year, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office filed human trafficking-related charges against 43 defendants in cases involving 50 victims, nine of whom were under 18.
San Diego has been identified as one the FBI's High Intensity Child Prostitution Areas.
—City News Service