NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Many communities within our borders and around Los Angeles have complained about the consequences of local prostitution in their neighborhoods -- from condoms in gutters to late night activity outside their homes.
Prostitution in California has grown into a thriving, professional business and the exploitation of women and children trapped within it has exploded. Authorities have attempted to stem the tide.
According to the LA Times, in August 2016, 153 prostitution-related arrests were made during a multi-agency crackdown and sweep called Operation Summer Rescue. The focus was on the recovery and rescue of sexually exploited children. They liberated 10 victims who had been forced into the sex trade. Eight of them were between the ages of 15 and 17.
In Feb. 2017, 434 people were arrested in a multi-sting effort conducted by 30 law enforcement agencies across the state. Twenty-eight of those captured were children and 36 of them were pimps.
In March of 2017 authorities uncovered an international sex trafficking ring in Irvine run by four people who brought in women and girls from China who were forced into selling themselves for sex, working up to 14 hours a day and forced to pay $800 a day for their food and rent.
In a 2015 Neighborhood News interview about local prostitution with Captain Palazzolo of Olympic division (found on our website), we discovered that pimps rotate the women and girls throughout the state in order to avoid becoming familiar to local law enforcement.
But the real root of the problem is the customers who are willing to satisfy their sexual addiction regardless of the circumstance of the women and children who serve them. Efforts to discourage these clients by confiscating their vehicles hit a roadblock when in 2007 in a 4 - 3 decision, the California Supreme Court ruled against and overturned the practice in more than two dozen cities from Oakland to Los Angeles. According to the LA Time's the Supreme Court ruled “that without authorization from the [State]Legislature, cities can't pass seizure ordinances that are harsher than state and federal laws” and there were no laws in the state or on the federal level that allowed it. Until now.
In April, State Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra introduced legislation (AB 1206) that would establish a 24-month pilot program in Los Angeles allowing law enforcement to impound the vehicles of “johns” and pimps that are used during the solicitation of prostitution. From his website:
“This is an important step to protect our neighborhoods from people who are taking advantage of women who are being trafficked,” said Assemblymember Bocanegra. “Unfortunately, many parts of my district have a high amount of prostitution, and we need to provide law enforcement the tools to end sex trafficking once and for all.”
The measure would allow the City of LA to adopt an ordinance to impound and seize a vehicle used in the act of soliciting prostitution for up to 30 days prior to a conviction. Currently, law enforcement can only tow a vehicle if the john or pimp has a prior conviction within the last three years. AB 1206 would also require the city to create a diversion program to prostitutes cited or arrested in the course of the pilot program, and require the city to issue a report within six months of the completion of the pilot program.
It has been well-documented how the San Fernando Valley has been plagued by prostitution over the past decade. In response to this epidemic, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) created the “Valley Bureau Human Trafficking Task Force.” In 2016, LAPD’s task force made more than 500 arrests, issued more than 3,000 citations, and rescued at least 10 human trafficking victims, eight of whom were minors. One of the most popular venues for prostitution and sex trafficking is the motor vehicle, which serves as not only a venue for service, but also a venue for transportation of individuals against their will. The task force regularly receives complaints citing motor vehicles parking in residential driveways while services are rendered. And residents have also reported used condoms, wrappers, needles and syringes on their driveways, sidewalks and streets.
“Human trafficking is a problem in Los Angeles where vehicles play a key role,” said Assemblymember Bocanegra. “AB 1206 creates a zero tolerance policy for soliciting prostitution, and anyone using their car will have their vehicle towed.”
Raul Bocanegra is the Democratic Majority Whip in the California State Assembly. He represents the 39th Assembly District, which includes the Los Angeles communities of Arleta, Granada Hills, Lakeview Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hollywood, Pacoima, Shadow Hills, Sun Valley, Sunland-Tujunga, Sylmar and the City of San Fernando.
(Dianne Lawrence is the editor and publisher of The Neighborhood News … where this report was first posted.)