A California law decriminalizing loitering offenses for sex workers has gone into effect, resulting in a prostitution and human trafficking surge in California, locals say.
Senate Bill 357, the Safer Streets for All Act, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in July 2022, repealed a state law that criminalized loitering with the intent to engage in sex work. The legislation also allows a person convicted of a loitering with intent to commit prostitution offense to petition the court to have their case dismissed and sealed.
Activists argued the law was a “Jim Crow law that criminalized black and trans people” and permitted the “unjust profiling, harassment and arrests of transgender women and cisgender women of color by law enforcement.”
Since SB 357 took effect on Jan. 1, California is seeing a spike in public prostitution, including scantily clad or fully nude women soliciting outside of sensitive places like elementary schools.
Video captured in Oakland by ABC 7 shows sex workers soliciting outside of a Catholic grade school during the middle of the day.
“You have to be very alert in this neighborhood, as I told you, they’ve followed me a couple times,” Rosa Vargas told ABC, referring to known pimps in the area. When asked if she sees this every day, Vargas said, “It’s every day, during all periods of the day.”
She added that prostitutes are even soliciting right in front of the school gate, “blocking the entrance of the parking structure, where they were having basketball games.”
SB 357 was introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat, who said it will protect transgender women he claimed are disproportionally targeted by police.
“[The previous law] allowed police officers to arrest a person, not based on what they did, but based solely on how a person looks,” Wiener recently said in an interview, according to Fox News. “So, an officer could arrest someone because they were wearing tight clothing, high heels and extra lipstick.”
Police and Republican officials, however, say the new legislation is creating more victims by facilitating prostitution and human trafficking.
“California Democrats’ policy of legalizing crime is creating more victims by the hour,” Gallagher said in a statement quoted by Fox. “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.”
Fox also reported that Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, a Democrat, believes that some of the young women seen outside of the elementary school are as young as 15, which has sparked concern over potential human trafficking.