May 24, 2023

In Brief: Predator’s Paradise

New laws are making California a haven for human trafficking.

Abigail Shrier, author of the book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, observes how California’s commitment to the Left’s gender-bending crusade has made the Golden State prime territory for human trafficking, especially sex trafficking. The long-running problem in California has gotten significantly worse in the last few years.

While the last few decades have seen an increase in human trafficking, women at all three of the anti-trafficking groups I spoke with across California agreed: nothing compares with the stunning rise in trafficking they’ve witnessed in recent months. Powell, formerly a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department’s Vice Division, knows the city’s streets intimately. Over the last six months, the number of prostitutes has doubled, she says. “On Figueroa, between 68th and 75th, in an hour, you might see about 30 girls out there. Now, you can see 60 to 65 girls in an hour.”

Shrier asks, “What shifted?”

The answer, the anti-trafficking advocates told me, is Senate Bill 357. Signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in July, the measure decriminalized loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution. The bill did not officially take effect until January 1 of this year, but from the moment it became law back in July, these women say, the on-the-ground reality changed. “The minute the governor signed it, you started seeing an uptick on the streets,” Powell said. “And on social media, the pimps were saying: ‘You better get out there and work because the streets are ours.’”

Many warned the law would lead to an increase in sex crimes and human trafficking, leaving young women more vulnerable while making policing crime that much more difficult. Leftist politicians swatted down the warning. However, the proof is in the pudding.

The pimps were right: police stopped making arrests for crimes that would no longer be charged. The anti-loitering statute had provided the grounds for officers to question women and children whom they suspected might be trapped in a prostitution ring. “As a police officer, you need probable cause to stop and investigate,” Powell explained. “So if I have a law that says you can’t loiter in this area, with pasties and a G-string, flagging down cars, I could stop you for that because you’re loitering. But if I just say I’m stopping you because you look kind of young, that’s a little weak. So, it takes away a tool.” Without the statute, police hands were suddenly tied. Henceforth, questioning the girls — and potentially provoking a violent confrontation with pimps — came to seem a Pyrrhic gamble, one that California’s police officers would now avoid.

Irrespective of the fact that prostitution remains technically illegal in California, the new law all but handcuffed law enforcement’s ability to police it. So, what was the motivation behind the new law?

Why would anyone propose such a law? Why would the California State Legislature pass it? I asked the bill’s author, San Francisco–based state senator Scott Wiener. The answer he gave is the one that he supplies for so many of the bills he authors: it was necessary to advance the rights of LGBTQ people.

Shrier concludes:

As a result of this law, adult sexual predators of all orientations in California gained greater access to child victims.

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