WASHINGTON, DC (August 17, 2021) – The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) called on the California Legislature to halt efforts to pass SB 357 that would repeal loitering laws related to prostitution, even for those who are sex buying/pimping, because it would severely cripple law enforcement in its ability to arrest and prosecute sex traffickers and sex buyers.
“If passed, this bill would let sex buyers/pimps continue to buy prostituted people with impunity, and increase the demand for sex trafficked individuals,” said Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
“Sex buyers are disproportionately white, privileged males. Giving these sex buyers’ immunity is essentially entitling them to exploit those less privileged, and it substantially increases disparity and racial and gender injustice, contrary to its alleged purpose,” Hawkins said.
Dr. Stephany Powell, director of law enforcement training and survivor services for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and a former LAPD Vice Sergeant, explained why this bill would hamper law enforcement.
“Identifying victims of human trafficking is a difficult and time-consuming task for law enforcement. Many officers rely on the loitering law as a method to initiate trafficking investigations that lead to serious convictions for traffickers and pimps,” Powell said. “A police officer can only arrest on a misdemeanor if they witness that misdemeanor occurring. If loitering is no longer a crime, then an officer who witnesses it cannot investigate further, even if the person loitering is suspected of being exploited or underage.”
“This bill assumes that loitering laws are used to merely harass marginalized people, and that by repealing them, these people will experience less discrimination from police. That assumption will only cause further harm to communities with existing poverty and high crime. Risk for exploitation increases significantly when exploiters loiter with immunity – this is a quality-of-life issue,” Powell said.