A new piece of legislation authored by State Assemblyman Marty Block–with cooperation from several local lawmakers and law enforcement agencies–that would establish harsher penalties for pimping, pandering and human trafficking will be discussed by a state assembly committee next week.
Titled Assembly Bill 918, the legislation would add pimping, pandering and human trafficking to a list of 33 criminal offenses for gang-related crime. The bill is in response to a reported increase in human trafficking of young girls by gang members across the county over the last few years.
It is now thought by law enforcement that pimping girls for prostitution is now the second-highest revenue source for gangs in San Diego.
Gang members are recruiting teenage girls for prostitution in schools and “selling them over and over,” Block said. Where drugs can only be sold once, girls are a “renewable resource for gangs,” he said.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob experienced firsthand how the problem extends into East County during a curfew sweep in Spring Valley last year. The sheriff’s department picked up more than 30 juveniles during the sweep, most of whom were teen girls.
“They were on the streets working–and they weren’t working for themselves,” Jacob said. “They were working for their pimps. The pimps were gang members.”
Jacob added that she has learned a lot about teen prostitution and pimping since her eye-opening experience, and said that the establishment of this new bill will go a long way toward limiting the problem.
“I’ve learned that running guns, selling drugs and pimping girls is known as ‘The Game,’ in the gang culture,” said Jacob. “Because of AB918, the rules of the game are changing, and gang members are going to lose.”
Jacob was joined in support of the bill by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and representatives from other law enforcement agencies.
Gore said that since 2007, a task force created to combat the problem has arrested 164 pimps, 44 percent of whom are gang members. Of the 372 female victims, about 30 percent were minors, he said.
An alarming trend is the number of teen girls that are being recruited into prostitution in their schools. County agencies have been working closely with school districts, training educators, principals and counselors on some of the warning signs that someone may be involved in gangs, either as a pimp or a prostitute. Some of these signs include increased truancy, having multiple cell phones and physical bruising.
“The idea is to intervene before a girl gets involved in that lifestyle,” said Sgt. Jason King, who runs the anti-trafficking task force as collaborative duty, and operates out of the San Diego County Sheriff’s substation in Ramona.
Dumanis said that by adding these activities to the list of gang-related offenses, it creates harsher penalties for those found guilty of the crimes, and also affects parole and bail for those charged with them.
The bill goes before the Assembly Public Safety Committee in Sacramento on Tuesday and, if eventually passed by the Legislature, could reach the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown by September or October, Block said.
City News Service contributed to this report.