By Signal Staff
Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, delivered a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday urging him to veto Senate Bill 357, which Wilk’s office described as “a soft-on-crime measure advocated by California Democrats that would hurt California’s ability to combat human trafficking.”
SB 357, by Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would remove a tool frequently used by law enforcement to identify victims of sex trafficking by legalizing loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution, as well as let individuals off the hook who are directing those intending to engage in prostitution, according to a statement released by Wilk’s office.
The measure is opposed by multiple law enforcement and victims groups, including the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition.
“Instead of giving law enforcement more tools to combat human trafficking, California Democrats voted to remove tools from the shed. We are urging the governor to prioritize helping the victims of this horrible crime, not criminals in California,” Wilk said in a prepared statement.
Multiple law enforcement groups, including the Democrat California Attorney General Rob Bonta acknowledge the need for a multi-pronged approach to fighting human trafficking, the statement said. Bonta’s website on human trafficking says that perpetrators have become more sophisticated and organized, therefore “requiring an equally sophisticated response from law enforcement.”
“Instead of giving law enforcement more tools to combat this serious issue, California Democrats instead voted to hinder law enforcement’s ability to combat human trafficking,” said the statement from Wilk’s office.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, current law is used “to target sex buyers who seek to exploit,” and a repeal of the law would “take a major tool away from law enforcement” when it comes to combatting this issue.
Similarly, the Peace Officer’s Research Association of California said, “This bill would further hinder law enforcement efforts to not only identify and prosecute those who commit crimes related to prostitution and human trafficking but also hinder the ability to identify those being victimized.”
The statement from Wilk’s office added: “Senate Republicans strongly urge Californians to voice opposition by calling Gov. Newsom at 916-445-2841 to veto SB 357. SB 357 was passed at the end of session in 2021, but after Senate Republican efforts to halt it drew negative attention to the bill, the author chose to hold off on sending it to the governor until now.”
Wiener’s office issued a prepared statement saying the bill is designed to make the streets safer for all. “This criminal provision — arrests for which are based on an officer’s subjective perception of whether a person is ‘acting like’ or ‘looks like’ they intend to engage in sex work — results in the disproportionate criminalization of trans, Black and brown women, and perpetuates violence toward sex workers,” said the statement from Wiener’s office.
“This Pride Month, as we see a surge in violence against and harassment of the LGTBQ community, it is more important than ever to get rid of a law that targets our community,” Wiener said in a prepared statement. “Current law essentially allows law enforcement to target and arrest people if they are wearing tight clothes or a lot of make-up. Many of those impacted by this law are Black and brown trans women. Pride isn’t just about rainbow flags and parades. It’s about protecting the most marginalized in our community. I urge Governor Newsom to sign SB 357.”