California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom repealed a law last year that prohibited loitering for prostitution purposes. Now, Republicans in the Golden State are alleging that the move incentivizes human trafficking.
Senate Bill 357, which repealed the law banning loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution, was introduced by Democrat state Sen. Scott Wiener in part because he said transgender women were disproportionately targeted.
“It allowed police officers to arrest a person, not based on what they did, but based solely on how a person looks,” Wiener told KGO-TV. “So an officer could arrest someone because they were wearing tight clothing, high heels and extra lipstick.”
The new law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, has sparked criticism from Republicans, including GOP Assembly leader James Gallagher, who claims the measure allows illegal activity, including human trafficking.
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“California Democrats’ policy of legalizing crime is creating more victims by the hour,” Gallagher said in a statement. “Under Democratic rule, families and businesses are moving out, while human traffickers are moving in. It was clear from the get-go that this law would encourage and enable human trafficking, but that was apparently an acceptable result for the lawmakers who backed it.”
Critics slammed the bill last week after scantily dressed or sometimes even naked women were reportedly seen outside an elementary school in Oakland. Local police have said their hands are tied because of the new law, and they can no longer arrest people engaging in loitering for prostitution. California Republicans have echoed the allegation.
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The law, however, did not make it legal to walk around naked in front of a school.
And, as Wiener highlighted, the law also does not restrict police from arresting people for prostitution or solicitation.
“The police’s hands are not tied,” he said. “They can arrest people for soliciting, they can cite vehicles that are stopped in the middle of the street, they can arrest ‘johns,’ they can arrest pimps.”
Weiner also said it is a “cop-out” for police to claim the law is preventing them from doing anything about suspected human trafficking since the problem has been around for a long time.
Democrat Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo told KGO-TV that he believed some of the young women seen outside the elementary school were as young as 15 years old, leading to allegations of possible human trafficking.
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The women’s exact ages are unknown, and it is unclear if they are in fact victims of human trafficking.
The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, the largest anti-human trafficking organization in California, supported Wiener’s legislation.