Pimping and other exploitative crimes are now second biggest revenue source for gangs in San Diego County
April 8, 2011 (San Diego) – To help law enforcement tackle the growing problem of gang-related criminal sexual exploitation and human trafficking, Assemblymember Marty Block (AD-78) today was joined by San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore to support AB 918.
The bill, authored by Block and sponsored by San Diego County, would give law enforcement better tools to combat criminal street gangs that commit the crimes of pimping, pandering or human trafficking--the second biggest income source for local gangs.
“These crimes exploit the most vulnerable among us with children often recruited from within the walls of their own schools for the profit of illegal gang activity – it is unacceptable and we must take steps to address this epidemic and make our communities safer,” said Assemblymember Block. “AB 918 will help law enforcement combat the rise in gang activity by giving them the right tools to better investigate and prosecute gang members who commit pimping, pandering and human trafficking. By providing law enforcement with these additional tools we are taking a step to deter this kind of gang activity and further protecting vulnerable women and children in our communities.”
The California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP Act) is the state law that defines criminal gang and lists 33 offenses that are associated with gang activity. The definition of a criminal street gang triggers enhanced penalties and bail, affects probation and parole conditions, augments law enforcement tools, and affects the way the case is handled by all stakeholders in the system.
Pimping and pandering currently carry mandatory prison sentences but there is no provision in the state penal code that provides enhanced penalties for a criminal street gang connection. In the United States, hybrid gangs have evolved for the sole purpose of profiting off pimping, but it is difficult to prosecute these gang members effectively. Sexual exploitation and human trafficking are highly profitable and carry minimum risk to the actual gang pimp.
AB 918 addresses this issue by adding pimping, pandering and human trafficking to the STEP Act. This change will help law enforcement more effectively investigate, document and prosecute criminal street gangs and rescue victims of gang-related pimping. By including these crimes in the STEP Act, law enforcement can establish a pattern of criminal activity to help them target gang activity that involves criminal sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
“Our County is ahead of the curve when it comes to stopping violent street gangs from selling young girls for sex. The County’s bill sends a message to gang pimps: the rules of the game are changing and you’re going to lose,” said San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
Law enforcement has seen a marked increase in the number of criminal sexual exploitation cases. Criminal street gangs have embraced pimping and human trafficking as a major revenue source, for some gangs replacing the sale of weapons and narcotics as a major source of funding. This leads gangs to recruiting young girls at high schools and middle schools, often using tactics of fear and intimidation to solicit them.
A 2003 FBI audit, the most recent on this subject, ranked San Diego eighth nationally for child prostitution in the United States. Los Angeles was No. 1, followed by Minneapolis and Dallas.
Block's bill is supported by the California State Sheriffs’ Association, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the San Diego County District Attorney, the County of San Bernardino Board of Supervisors, the California Peace Officers’ Association and the National District Attorneys Association.
The bill will be heard in Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 12, 2011.