A new bill aimed at fighting human trafficking has been signed into law in California.
The new law means hefty fines for hotel owners who suspect human trafficking is happening but don’t report it.
“It will help incentivize businesses to not turn a blind eye to what’s happening underneath their noses,” said San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow.
The bill, authored by Central Coast Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, was signed into law by Governor Newsom this week.
AB 1788 allows city and district attorneys to fine hotel and motel owners who know that human trafficking is happening on their property, and do not report it to authorities.
“We now believe that because of this liability they will comply, they’ll report the trafficking that’s going on in their businesses,” said Dow.
Human trafficking is a growing problem across California and the country, and the Central Coast is far from immune.
“We, unfortunately, are a hub of human trafficking. We have had numerous successful prosecutions here of both minors and adults being trafficked,” added Dow.
The San Luis Obispo County DA’s office has a task force whose sole purpose is to combat human trafficking and help victims.
“I hate to see children involved in this, the trauma lasts a lifetime,” said Sandy Simpson, the program manager for Hope United’s Freedom Calling Initiative.
Task force members say that the county sees both sex and labor trafficking. More recently, there has been a rise in labor trafficking among young migrants.
“To me, the saddest part is the fact that many of the clients that we have right now, they’re between the ages of 12 and 19,” said Simpson. “They come from all sorts of backgrounds whether they’re migrants who have come as unaccompanied refugee minors or whether they are high school girls who think maybe they want to modeling job while they’re in college.”
Simpson says that the program may be small but explains that it makes a world of difference in people’s lives here on the Central Coast.
“For me, the difference that we can make in just one person’s life-- we’ve had adults too-- but change a person’s life and set a kid on the right direction and try to help them start the healing process.”
Jordan Cunningham has authored several bills that go after traffickers and five have been signed into law.
We reached out to the California Lodging Association for reaction, and they gave us the following statement:
“For decades we have proactively combated trafficking across the state through identification and prevention training mandates. the association recognizes that this measure is intended to penalize bad actors and is supportive of that goal – there is no room for trafficking in California’s hotels.”