San Diego Union-Tribune

Oct 12, 2012   

Yes on Prop. 35: Get tougher on human trafficking

Drive along El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego some night and you will likely see the problem that Proposition 35 on the Nov. 6 ballot seeks to address: Young prostitutes, some reportedly not yet in their teens, working the street.

Forcing people to sell their bodies or do manual labor for the profit of others is a crime called human trafficking. It is said by some experts to be growing fast, and the rise in particular of children being forced into prostitution was the reason that the FBI in 2003 identified San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, along with 10 other cities nationwide, as “High-Intensity Child Prostitution Areas.”

Getting the state Legislature to do something about it seems like it should have been a slam dunk. Don’t politicians love to run for re-election as being tough on crime? If that’s what you think, you don’t know the politicians who control the California Legislature.

“There was massive resistance from certain people in the Legislature,” Chris Kelly, one of the original organizers of Proposition 35, recently told the Sacramento Bee. “That surprised the heck out of me because I think these should be no-brainer issues.”

So do we.

Existing state law provides for a prison sentence of up to five years for human trafficking or, if the victim is under 18, up to eight years. If there is great bodily injury to the victim, punishment can include an additional term of up to six years in prison.

Proposition 35 would toughen the penalties in several ways. It would expand the definition of human trafficking to include certain crimes involving the depiction of minors in obscene material. It would increase the potential prison sentence for labor trafficking crimes to 12 years and for sex trafficking of adults to 20 years. Those convicted of sex trafficking of minors would face 15 years to life. Those convicted could also be fined up to $1.5 million, with the money to be used for victim services and law enforcement.

In addition, those convicted of trafficking would be required to register as sex offenders and provide certain information about their Internet identities. Finally, it would bar certain evidence from being used against victims in court and would require special training of police officers.

Like most citizen initiatives, Proposition 35 is not perfect. The language of some provisions is imprecise, sometimes out of sync with federal law or otherwise problematic. That’s why a legislative solution would have been better.

But that was not to be. And the reality is that Proposition 35 has been endorsed by the state Democratic and Republican parties and dozens of statewide and local law enforcement agencies, including the San Diego and Chula Vista police officer associations and the local Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.

And by the editorial board of U-T San Diego. We urge a yes vote on Proposition 35.

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