by Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

The San Diego County District Attorney’s office announced its support for a bill that will classify human trafficking as a “violent” felony crime. 

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said her office is supporting Senate Bill 1042, which also designates human trafficking as a “strike” offense. In early March, the bill, authored by State Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), was introduced into the California legislature. 

The bill will be heard next in the State Senate’s Public Safety Committee.

“This legislation ensures traffickers are sentenced to prison, establishes increased penalties for repeat offenders, and prevents traffickers from receiving early parole,” DA Stephan said. “We continue to attack human trafficking, the sexual exploitation of young people, and labor trafficking on several fronts. This change to the law will give prosecutors across the state another tool that has more serious consequences for those who would prey on some of the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Human trafficking is defined as a “non-serious” and “non-violent” crime under California law. It falls under the same category as other low-level felonies such as vandalism, theft, and drug sales in the state, despite leading the nation in the number of human trafficking cases reported to the national human trafficking hotline. 

According to the DA’s office, human trafficking charges apply to those who are sexually exploiting or attempting to sexually exploit children and those who use force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or an unlawful threat of injury on an adult that results in the substantial and sustained deprivation of the adult victim’s liberty for the purposes of obtaining forced labor, services, or sexual exploitation.

Traffickers are exploiters, frequently targeting the most vulnerable and abused of society for their own financial and sexual exploitation.  Women, children, and minorities are particularly vulnerable for exploitation, as are members of the LBTQ community.

The DA announced a new outreach campaign earlier this month aimed at raising awareness that boys are often victims of human trafficking. The month-long campaign’s goal is to broaden the public perception of who is vulnerable to being sexually trafficked. 

Both state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the California Attorney General, define human trafficking as “modern-day slavery.”

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