February 13, 2014
LAWT News Service
Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-South Los Angeles) has introduced a bill to allow courts to authorize law enforcement officials to use wiretaps when investigating or prosecuting the trafficking of minors. During a press conference held at the state Capitol to call for concerted state and county efforts to combat the illegal exploitation of youths for sex and labor, Mitchell emphasized the need for more effective policing to apprehend and convict suspected perpetrators.
“Our children are simply not for sale,” Mitchell said at the press conference, flanked by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, state Senators Ted Lieu, Bob Huff, Jerry Hill and Marty Block, Assemblymember Susan Eggman and California Against Slavery founder Daphne Phung. “We have to empower law enforcement with the tools they need.”
Mitchell’s bill, SB 955, would add suspected trafficking of minors to the list of felony cases during which it is lawful for police to seek a judge’s permission to employ wiretaps. Wiretapping is already legal in investigations of illicit drug dealing, various violent crimes, and felonious conspiracies. Californians passed an initiative to increase penalties for youth trafficking in 1996, but that ballot measure did not add trafficking to the list of authorized wiretap investigations.
“Young women in foster care and group homes are being targeted and victimized,” said Mitchell. “Children of color, especially, are being trafficked and need our help.”
The interception of wire and electronic communications (cell phones, text messages, etc.) is a powerful tool for investigating, infiltrating, dismantling and prosecuting human trafficking organizations, she said. Conviction of pimps is less likely to depend on their victims testifying in court when wiretap evidence is available instead.