State Senate human trafficking bill gathers supports from Exeter council

(Rigo Moran)

Exeter City Council shows their support for SB14 which stands to make trafficking minors a felony, qualifying it for a strike under the state’s three strikes law

EXETER – In a unanimous show of support all five Exeter council members voted in favor of a resolution that supports harsher penalties for human traffickers.

At their May 23 meeting, the Exeter City Council voted unanimously to support state Senate Bill (SB) 14. The bill is an attempt to classify human trafficking of a minor as a serious felony, which would qualify the crime under the “three strikes law.” The bill was introduced by Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) whose district includes Exeter. Other senators who cosponsored the bill are Anna Caballero (D-Fresno) and Susan Rubio (D-West Covina).

“California consistently ranks number one in the nation in the number of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline,” according to the text of the bill. “Human trafficking is among the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprises and is estimated to be a $150,000,000,000 a year global industry.” SB14 recently passed through the Senate appropriations committee on May 18 and then unanimously passed the Senate floor on May 25.

“It’s hard to believe that selling a human being over and over again is not considered a serious crime in California. Senate Bill 14 will protect countless children who are being trafficked and prevent this horrific crime from happening,” Grove stated via press release. “This bill is one of the missing pieces that is needed in order to address one of the most lucrative crimes in the world that is happening in communities across our state.”

The three strikes law generally carries a life sentence without possibility of parole for the third offense of a serious felony. By categorizing trafficking of a minor as a serious felony the bill will subject those charged to the three strikes law. Therefore SB14 could impose a life sentence for criminals convicted of trafficking a minor. As the law stands now the three strikes law carries a 15 years-to-life sentence for violent felonies and a fine of $500,000 or more.

According to the California Department of Justice, in 2016, 1,331 cases of human trafficking were reported in California. Of those cases, 1,051 were sex trafficking cases, 147 were labor trafficking cases, 46 involved both labor and sex trafficking and 86 cases were not specified.

Human trafficking in the Central Valley, and more specifically Tulare County, has become increasingly problematic. From 2009-2013, over 130 victims have been identified and rescued, according to the Central Valley Against Human Trafficking advocacy group.

Many factors make the Central Valley one of the hubs for human trafficking. According to the Central Valley Justice Coalition iIt is located at the center of the state between other human trafficking hubs such as Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These urban centers as well as the Valley are home to numerous groups that are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, such as migrant workers and foster care youth.

A large spotlight was put on human trafficking in Tulare County when Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced the results of Operation Baby Face that culminated in the arrests of 13 men and one woman who trafficked 52 victims in 2017. The investigation began in May of 2017 and more than 70 deputies served 15 search warrants and arrest warrants in the early morning hours prior to the announcement. In October2017, Sheriff Boudreaux, District Attorney Tim Ward and Family Services of Tulare County announced a $1.4 million human trafficking grant to identify, pursue and prosecute human trafficking by bolstering the Tulare County Human Trafficking Task Force.

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