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National City Mayor joins growing call for stiffer penalties for child sex trafficking buyers

Posted at 6:32 PM, Jul 08, 2024

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. (KGTV) — National City Mayor Ron Morrison says he plans to bring a resolution to the National City City Council, urging them to support a new child sex trafficking bill at the state capitol.

The resolution was introduced by community activist Shane Harris, the founder of the People's Association of Justice Advocates during a news conference on Monday. Harris said he plans to bring a similar measure to San Diego.

Mayor Morrison said he will introduce the proposal at a council meeting next month. It calls for the city to back Senate Bill 1414 in its original version, which made it a felony to buy a sex-trafficked minor.

"We have what some people are referring to as 'America's Lingerie Show on the streets,'" Morrison said.

He sent photos of barely dressed women walking the streets near Integrity Charter School on National City Boulevard, less than a mile from City Hall.

Morrison said his city has a problem with sex trafficking, and he blames a previous assembly bill for the unintended consequences.

The Safer Streets For All Act went into effect in January 2023, in an effort to prohibit officers from confronting and arresting transgender women and women of color. It repealed the law that made loitering for the purpose of prostitution a crime.

In October 2023, ABC 10News anchor Kimberly Hunt got a first-hand look at the problem, documenting prostitution in broad daylight across parts of southern San Diego County.

"Our laws should be to protect the community, not the pimps," Morrison said. "SB 1414 will make buying a child for sex, a felony in the state of California ... I know that it is hard to believe that it is not a felony to buy a child for sex in California."

While it sounds like a simple issue, the bill has encountered resistance.

Since the bill was introduced by Republican State Senator Shannon Grove, it's been revised and then re-revised again and now contains wobblers.

Wobblers are specific requirements that must be met to qualify as a felony. In this case, the bill now "increases the punishment from a misdemeanor to a wobbler for solicitation of a minor where the person solicited was under 16 years of age at the time of the offense; and makes a second or subsequent offense a straight felony."

Debate surrounding the bill largely centers on penalties for traffickers who solicit minors aged 16 and older.

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a northern California human rights organization, opposes the bill.

In the most recent Senate Bill Public Safety Policy Committee Analysis, the organization wrote, "While we share the goal of protecting minors from exploitation and abuse, we believe that SB 1414 takes an overly punitive approach that fails to address the root causes of these issues."

For Morrison, though, he hopes possible National City support can push SB 1414 to the finish line.

"We need to take our communities back. We need to take our families back," he said. "That's the message that we need to be sending to Sacramento."