April 13, 2011 (Sacramento) – Legislation authored by Assemblymember Marty Block (D-AD78) to provide law enforcement with better tools to fight the growing epidemic of gang-related criminal sexual exploitation and human trafficking, cleared its first Assembly committee today. AB 918 was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a vote of 6-0.
This legislation is designed to combat criminal sexual exploitation and human trafficking as gang crimes by adding pimping, pandering and human trafficking to the California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act (STEP Act).
“Gang activity is evolving and we need to make sure that law enforcement has the tools necessary to keep pace in a world where gangs are using sexual exploitation and human trafficking to fund their operation and victimize vulnerable young women and children,” said Assemblymember Block. “AB 918 adds pimping, pandering and human trafficking to the list of gang crimes recognized in state law. This will give law enforcement stronger tools to track gangs that commit these crimes, make it easier to prosecute and put these criminals behind bars and help rescue the girls whose lives are stolen by this criminal activity. It is critical for us to address this growing problem and with this bill moving forward we are a step closer.”
The STEP Act is the state law that defines criminal gangs 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 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.
AB 918 addresses this issue by adding pimping, pandering and human trafficking to the STEP Act. By including these crimes, law enforcement can establish a pattern of criminal activity to help them target gang activity that involves criminal sexual exploitation and human trafficking. This change will help law enforcement more effectively investigate, document and prosecute criminal street gangs and rescue victims of gang-related pimping.
AB 918 is sponsored by the County of San Diego. It is supported by the San Diego County District Attorney, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, California State Sheriffs’ Association, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, the County of San Bernardino Board of Supervisors, the California Peace Officers’ Association and the National District Attorneys Association.
The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration.
Assemblymember Marty Block represents the cities and communities of Bonita, Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, San Diego and Spring Valley.