Under a bill authored by San Gabriel assemblyman Chris Holden, police officers could secure a wire tap when the suspect is thought to be involved in human trafficking of minors.
Holden, D-Pasadena, introduced AB 156, designed to give law enforcement a new tool to crack down on the criminals participating in this $32 billion dollar a year enterprise, according to a press release from the legislator's office. California is one of the top destinations for trafficking, with a growing number of girls and boys -- sometimes as young as 12 or 13 -- brought into the state and forced into prostitution.
It is a crime both nationally and internationally. But, like drug and arms trafficking, it is one of the most difficult to pursue.
"You would think in this day and age when traffickers have become more sophisticated, law enforcement would have all the tools it needs to stop these criminals. But you would be wrong," Holden said in a prepared statement. Holden represents the newly redrawn 41st Assembly District, which extends south to north from South Pasadena to Altadena, then east to foothill towns San Dimas, La Verne and Claremont.
"This bill will change that and help stop this modern-day slavery that threatens our children, our families and our neighborhoods."
Law enforcement is currently authorized to obtain a court order to wiretap for investigation of drug trafficking or criminal gang activity, but not human trafficking. Under this bill, law enforcement officers can ask a judge for wiretap permit to investigate sex trafficking of a minor.
Estimates are that 100,000 children nationwide are exploited each year.
"The California Police Chiefs Association takes human trafficking very, very seriously", John Lovell, Legislative Advocate for the Association wrote in the press release.
"California's wiretap laws have been crucial in going after complex, multi-level criminal activities. The reality is that human trafficking is an organized criminal enterprise, and the full range of enforcement tools are needed to combat this particular crime."
"It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of these youngsters who are pimped and branded and badly mistreated. I think of my daughter and her friends and I want to do everything possible to stop these horrible crimes. It's the least we can do to protect our children," concluded Holden.
Similar laws are already on the books in several other states including Texas, Illinois and Maryland.