Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Alameda lawmaker seeks crackdown on pimps, johns who victimize children

An East Bay lawmaker has introduced a pair of assembly bills aimed at hitting pimps and johns who victimize children where it hurts them most.

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, wasted no time, introducing his AB 16 and AB 17 on Monday, the new Legislature's very first day.

AB 16, the "Human Trafficking Penalties Act," would increase criminal penalties for pimping, pandering, trafficking or buying underage youth for sexual purposes by upgrading such offenses to qualify as "serious felonies," the type considered a strike under California's three-strikes sentencing law.

AB 17, the "Human Trafficking Accountability Act," would let judges impose fines from $250 to $250,000 upon those convicted of various crimes involving selling and buying sex from minors. Also, any property involved in the offense could be impounded for up to 60 days at a judge's discretion under this bill, and such property could be confiscated and sold upon the owner's conviction. Money from these fines and sales would go into each county's Sexually Exploited Minors Fund, of which about half would go to local law enforcement for use in stopping sexual exploitation of minors, and the rest would be available to nonprofit community groups for programs supporting sexual exploitation victims with services such as education, job training and housing aid.

Both bills would apply to acts of prostitution arranged in person, by phone or online.

"Many of the predators Advertisementinvolved in child exploitation left the drug trade for what they saw as a more lucrative field," Swanson said in a statement announcing the legislation. "These penalties directly attack the profitability of this new underground economy by making it very expensive to get caught. A pimp who traffics multiple children could be charged with literally dozens of counts that erase their assets and put them permanently behind bars. Prospective johns will also have to think seriously before soliciting the services of someone who is underage."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September signed into law Swanson's AB 499, which reclassified underage prostitutes as victims and launched a pilot program in Alameda County to create a standard training curriculum for local police and juvenile justice officials dealing with sexually exploited minors; that law will take effect Jan. 1. That bill came from the Alameda County District Attorney's office, and District Attorney Tom Orloff said Monday evening that Swanson's latest efforts "look like they could be helpful" as well.

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