Living in the 21st century, many fellow Americans find it hard to believe that slavery still exists or that it is happening in our very own backyard. This modern day slavery also known as human trafficking is a growing business in our country that deprives many individuals (men, women, and children) from their freedom, innocence and rights as humans.
On January 22, 2013, Assembly Member Chris Holden from Pasadena, California, introduced Assembly Bill 156- Human Trafficking: Interception of Electronic Communication to the California Legislature. This bill was a response to the increase of sexually exploited minors law enforcement would uncover through the investigation of gang activity. If passed, this bill would amend California’s Section 629.52 of the Penal Code, which currently allows a judge to enter an ex parte order authorizing the interception of wire or electronic communication, if there is probable cause to believe that an individual is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime—murder and the illegal possession or sale of controlled substances (Official California Legislation, 2013). Therefore, with the passage of bill 156, if there is enough probable cause for the suspicion of human trafficking of a minor, a judge can allow an ex parte order for the interception of electronic communication to assist in the investigation.
Local gangs and drug cartels are increasingly migrating to commercial sexual exploitation to fund their operations due to the immense profits and low risks of being detected compared to drug or weapon trafficking. Human beings provide a renewable source of profits where they can be sold over and over again compared to guns or drugs that can only be sold once. According to the FBI’s 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in at least 35 states and US territories have reported that gangs in their jurisdictions are involved in alien smuggling, human trafficking, or prostitution. Prostitution is reported to be the second largest source of income for San Diego, California gangs.
In 2012, it was reported by the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force that human trafficking was a growing enterprise in California and is estimated to be a $32 billion-a-year nation industry. The exploitation and prostitution of many of the victims has created an immense profit for this industry. However, many individuals remain unaware that more U.S. citizens are victims of sex trafficking than are foreign nationals, and American youths are the most vulnerable to becoming victims of sex trafficking in this country. In addition, between 450,000 and 2.8 million children and youths run away or are thrown away from home every year, and significant numbers of them will be prostituted (Clawson et al 2009). The average age of these youth being sex trafficked is 11 years old. Yes, 11 years old is the average age of youth being robbed from their innocents and into the black market. Youth — especially girls — are usually the most vulnerable in the sex trafficking market because they can be easily deceived, manipulated, forced, or coerced into prostitution. Furthermore, studies show that a common risk factor for prostituted girls is a history of childhood sexual abuse, where 33 to 84 of adult women who were sexually exploited had been abused as children (Raphael, 2004).
Although, AB 156 is not a bill that will eliminate or solve human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking of minors, nor does it assist adults who are being sex-trafficked; however, it will provide further assistance to law enforcement in order to further address and tackle the problem. Sex traffickers and gangs are reaching out to more victims and customers by recruiting and advertising online, with this bill it will assist law enforcement in investigating the case in order to prevent further harm to the victims, which can eventually lock away the perpetrators. Nevertheless, the State of California is in need of a comprehensive and systematic approach in training our local police departments on how to identify, assist, and treat these minors as victims not criminals. Also there is a need to further advocate and educate the community on human trafficking and the increase of minor sex trafficking.