COTTINGHAM: PROP. 35 PROTECTS OUR CHILDREN FROM HUMAN TRAFFICKERS

Sep 10, 2012   

On behalf of the 80,000 law enforcement officers across the state represented by organizations that have endorsed Proposition 35, I am writing to urge you to support Proposition 35.

Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the world, and it’s happening right here on California’s streets and online where young girls are bought and sold. Many victims are girls as young as 12. A national study recently gave California an “F” grade on its laws dealing with child sex trafficking.

Proposition 35 is a well-crafted law that will protect children from sexual exploitation and hold human traffickers accountable for their heinous crimes.

It is supported by law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates, faith groups and noted children’s advocates, like Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klass, who, in 1993 at age 12, was kidnapped from her Petaluma home and murdered. Across the state, Proposition 35 has been endorsed by members of Congress, the Legislature, local governments and both the Democratic and Republican parties.

We wanted to share our perspective on the few items highlighted in The Star’s Sept. 6 editorial, “Prop. 35, human trafficking law, not good enough.”

First, that the Legislature should have done something.

The bottom line is we tried, repeatedly. California passed the first human trafficking bill in the nation in 2005 but stopped there. Human traffickers have evolved, but our laws have not kept up.

Today, the Internet is used as a tool to sell young girls in ways we could not have imagined just seven years ago. Proposition 35 requires sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and disclose their Internet accounts. We know the legal tools we need, but our Legislature has failed to enact them despite our pleas.

Human traffickers prey on the most vulnerable in our society and profit by selling young women and girls for sex. Proposition 35 holds these criminals accountable by increasing prison terms. That is the right thing to do. Since the Legislature won’t do it, voters will.

Second, Proposition 35 contains narrow and specific guidelines for law enforcement and prosecutors. The language of Proposition 35 is based on the federal law defining and prosecuting sex trafficking.

Drafting criminal law requires balance, and this law reflects that balance between victims’ and defendants’ rights. That’s why Proposition 35 mirrors the rape shield law providing equal protection to the trafficker and the women and girls being trafficked. Proposition 35 removes the requirement to show that the young girl was forced into prostitution and provides her with immunity to testify against her trafficker.

Step-by-step, we are creating a justice system that punishes those who exploit rather than the exploited.

Third, the use of funds recovered from traffickers. The Legislative Analyst Office has reported Proposition 35 will have little to no fiscal impact and may even raise a few million dollars from convicted traffickers to pay for victims’ services so survivors can repair their lives. The savings to the criminal justice system when an exploited girl can be helped means vast reductions in future arrests and burdens on the courts.

On behalf of law enforcement, children’s advocates and everyone who wants to fight back against the sexual exploitation of women and children, we ask for your support of Proposition 35.

Ron Cottingham is president of the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), the largest public-safety organization in California and the largest statewide association in the nation.

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