The “Safer Streets for All Act” That Isn’t. – Pacific Research Institute

The “Safer Streets for All Act” That Isn’t.

Property Crimes On The Rise

Predictably, after Newsom signed the law, those sex workers have become the sex slaves of the 21st Century.  Their exploitation is now enabled by a legal system that protects criminals while prohibiting law enforcement from identifying or detaining the victims the law alleges to protect.

In 2022, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sex worker groups, and Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) joined forces to pass Senate Bill 357, which effectively decriminalized loitering for the purposes of prostitution.

Citing statistics from Los Angeles that showed over 50 percent of suspected prostitutes are black, the ACLU described the detention of black sex workers as “Jim Crow”-like and called law enforcement efforts to curb prostitution “harassment and discriminatory.”

“SB 357 will move California one step closer to acknowledging sex workers as deserving of full dignity and respect,” they argued.

To be sure, there have been cases of mistaken identity and possibly racism, yet if black sex workers were being disproportionately detained by the Los Angeles Police Department based on their race, it was by a police department that is itself 70 percent non-white.

Wiener and the ACLU named SB 357 as the “Safer Streets for All Act.”

In signing SB 357, Gov. Newsom wrote:

To be clear this bill does not legalize prostitution.  It simply revokes provisions of the law that have led to disproportionate harassment of women and transgender adults.  While I agree with the author’s intent and I am signing this legislation, we must be cautious about its implementation.  My Administration will monitor crime and prosecution trends for any possible unintended consequences and will act to mitigate any such impacts.

Predictably, after Newsom signed the law, those sex workers have become the sex slaves of the 21st Century.  Their exploitation is now enabled by a legal system that protects criminals while prohibiting law enforcement from identifying or detaining the victims the law alleges to protect.

Barely a year after Newsom signed SB 357, those predictable consequences were laid bare – and just a few miles from the Governor’s Office.

On May 22, KCRA-TV in Sacramento exposed the law’s shortcomings in a documentary called “Escaping the Blade.” Set on Stockton Blvd, the documentary’s promotional materials describe it as:

A story that plays out night after night. Women and girls are being sold for sex on the streets of Sacramento. Drivers might not know it while passing by, but many of the victims are being watched by traffickers who will later take their money and threaten them with violence.

Laws and the nature of the crime make cases difficult to investigate and prosecute.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, just “1,197 defendants were charged in federal court for human trafficking offenses in fiscal year 2021, 92% were male and 60% were white.”

“Of the 201 defendants charged with peonage, slavery, forced labor, and sex trafficking in fiscal year 2021,” the bureau notes, “77% were male and 58% were black.”

If there is a Jim Crow in Los Angeles, it’s possible he’s a pimp and a human trafficker.

A 2021 report by the Public Policy Institute of California noted that 13 percent of all identified trafficking victims nationwide are found in California.  The 2023 national statistics are not yet available.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta says that the “Attorney General’s Office is focused on combating the pervasive issue of human trafficking in California and has made it one of his top priorities.”  Now, in workplaces, hotels, and other businesses where trafficking victims might be found, employers are required to post anti-human trafficking placards and phone numbers for victims of human trafficking in multiple languages.

This month, in an attempt to curb the problem, Sens. Anna Caballero (D – Merced), Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), and Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) authored Senate Bill 1414, which would increase the penalty for soliciting sex with a minor from 1 year to 4 years, impose a $25,000 fine, and require registration as a sex offender.  In California, a minor is anyone under the age of 18.

Yet, Senate Public Safety Committee chair Aisha Wahab (D–San Jose), and committee members Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), and Wiener forced the bill to be amended in committee to decrease the sentence, remove 16 and 17 year-old victims from the bill and prohibit minor offenders from being charged with felonies for soliciting trafficking victims. Consider that the maximum sentence is now 3 years and, under California’s sentencing laws, offenders would likely serve half of that or 18 months.  For all other victims, the offenders sentence remains at just 1 year.

The move prompted outrage at the Capitol.  While the bill passed the Senate in its amended form, lawmakers of both parties vowed to seek changes to strengthen the bill’s provisions in the wake of the airing of the KCRA documentary.

Democratic Sen. Susan Eggman called out her fellow progressives during the bill’s debate, noting that, “I’m done with us protecting people who would buy and abuse our children.”

“I don’t want to send more black and brown men to prison . . . but I don’t want people buying girls,” she said.  “I’m tired of saying it’s OK and that we have to protect the men who do it.”

Echoing Eggman, Newsom recently announced his support for the bill, but cautioned, “I look forward to getting this bill on my desk in a way that I’ll sign it, but we have some work to do.”

The bill is now in the California Assembly.

But as lawmakers continue to debate, last night on “the Blade” in Sacramento, it was business as usual for California’s underage sex slaves.

Steve Smith is a senior fellow in urban studies at the Pacific Research Institute, focusing on California’s growing crime problem.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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