By Paula Fernandez, StandUp for Kids – Orange County
California lawmakers unanimously passed Senate Bill 14 on Wednesday, September 13, 2023, marking a huge win for child advocacy. Senate Bill 14, or SB 14, would make child trafficking a serious felony under California’s penal code, making an offense subject to the state’s Three Strikes Law. Offenders of serious or violent crimes would automatically receive harsher sentences for re-offending, such as longer prison terms and potential life sentences. The measure was sent to Governor Gavin Newsom for final sign off.
Under the current law, human trafficking of a minor can result in a sentence of up to 12 years and up to a $500,000 fine in prison. When the offense involves force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person, a sentence of up to fifteen years to life and a fine of up to $500,000 may be imposed.
On Wednesday, Susan Samueli, an Orange County philanthropist, held a meeting for her group, Ending Human Trafficking Collaborative. Presenting a wide range of information about trafficking, she had suggested that if everyone cared enough, the problem could be defeated. “Somehow, we have to make the public become more aware of what trafficking really is,” Samueli said. “Awareness, in this case, really could be a powerful factor.”
In a June report from the Orange County Grand Jury titled “Human Sex Trafficking in Orange County,” a lack of a centralized, reliable data system regarding all levels of human trafficking was one of three main issues highlighted. Having an advanced central database would allow law enforcement agencies to be able to consolidate important information and better track trafficking crimes, victims, and offenders.
Child trafficking is a worldwide epidemic, and the United States is no exception. Homeless youth are especially vulnerable to exploitation from traffickers. According to Covenant House New York’s research, “68% of youth who had either been trafficked or engaged in survival sex had done so while homeless.” The National Human Trafficking Hotline statistics for 2021, documented California as having the highest instances of human trafficking, including child trafficking. Out of 3,415 phone calls, 38% were from victims of trafficking, with 18% of victims being minors.
StandUp for Kids is a non-profit organization that aims to help at-risk and homeless youth through street outreach, and providing services such as mentoring, educational, and housing support. To help reach our goal of ending youth homelessness, we need everyone’s help. If you are interested in learning more about what we do, are interested in volunteering, or making a financial donation, please visit the Orange County chapter’s website at https://www.standupforkids.org/orange-county/ or email Perla Rojas, Business Development & Strategy Manager, at [email protected].