Senator Grove’s Bill to Strengthen Protections for Human Trafficking Victims and Survivors is Voted down in the Senate Public Safety Committee

Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) announced her bill SB 1042, which would include human trafficking in the lists of crimes that are defined as serious and violent under California law, was voted down by democrats in the Senate Public Safety Committee.

“It is disheartening that the members of the public safety committee did not see the need to give survivors the justice they deserve for this horrific crime that continues to be committed each and every day,” said Senator Grove. “In California, someone can commit robbery and it is rightly considered a violent felony but the act of buying and selling a human being is not held to the same standard.”

This bipartisan measure was coauthored by 22 members of the State Senate and Assembly. District attorneys from across the state, including the sponsor of the measure, Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley worked in conjunction to support the bill during the Senate Public Safety Committee hearing. District Attorney O’Malley, whose office has prosecuted over 800 human trafficking cases and leads the nationally-recognized HEAT (Human Exploitation and Trafficking) program, testified as an expert witness in support of the bill.

“We have seen victims murdered, physically abused, psychologically terrorized, manipulated and coerced and left to deal with the tragic aftermath of being sex trafficked,” said District Attorney O’Malley. “In every trafficking situation, those victims who are freed from the bondage and power of the trafficker, are nevertheless left to deal with the psychological and physical manifestations of being trafficked, of being victims of modern day slavery.”

There are an estimated 40 million people globally in the last decade that have been forced into the modern day form of slavery called human trafficking, a number that continues to grow. It is one of the world’s fastest growing and most lucrative crimes, generating around $150 billion around the world each year. Human trafficking victims often suffer from long-term physical and psychological trauma.

“It is important that legislators are kept aware of the real-world consequences of policy choices on crime. The law’s current classification of Human Trafficking as a ‘non-serious’ and ‘non-violent” crime enables traffickers to escape additional penalties for repeat offenses and entitles them to the benefits of early parole and increased custody credits that are afforded to felons whose crimes are considered ‘non-violent’ under the law,” said District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer.

“Despite bipartisan support to close this loophole that benefits human traffickers, the Senate Public Safety Committee declined to allow the legislation to move forward. This will not be the last time the issue is brought before the legislature, and each time it comes, it arrives with more support than before as awareness of the true tolls of human trafficking increases throughout the state.”

California consistently ranks number one in the nation for the number of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Law enforcement agencies and special task forces have been dedicated to stopping human trafficking across the state, yet the level of sophistication and organization of these trafficking rings will require stronger consequences for law enforcement to hold criminals accountable.

SB 1042 was voted down 1-2 in the Senate Public Safety Committee.

Although a motion was granted for reconsideration of the vote, such reconsiderations are seldom successful.