Supervisors Ask State to Stiffen Penalties for Adults Soliciting Sex from Children

As part of an ongoing effort against sex trafficking of children, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has called on state legislators to dramatically stiffen penalties for adults convicted of soliciting and having sex with children. Acting on a motion sponsored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe, the board asked the state to substantially raise fines so that California becomes the most expensive state in the nation in which to be convicted of soliciting sex from children. The same motion also calls for improved services and treatment for the victims.

Several speakers addressed the board about the ongoing problem of child sex trafficking and the challenges of cracking down on so-called “Johns,” including District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, Compton Mayor Aja Brown, the head of the LA County Probation Department’s sex trafficking unit Michelle Guymon as well as a survivor, Jessica Midkiff. Midkiff said she was groomed for work on the streets at age 11 and escaped shortly before turning 21.

“This motion represents a change in our view as to who are the true victims of these crimes and who are the true criminals,” said Lacey. “This motion addresses the market. That “John” who is out there trolling for a child should be treated more harshly by the system. If you are out there specifically looking for sex with a child you should not be treated as if you’re out there looking for sex with an adult.”

Chairman Ridley-Thomas announced that California State Senator Darrell Steinberg, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell and Assemblyman Ted Lieu have indicated their support for a state bill addressing the demand side of child sex trafficking. In addition, in accordance with a request from the Los Angeles District Attorney, the motion asks that the law be amended so that not knowing a victim’s age cannot be used as a legal defense.

“When adults engage in sexual acts with children it should be called what it is: statutory rape,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “These are children, and children cannot consent. There have been strong efforts to appropriately punish sex traffickers, and there are efforts afoot to provide more services and treatment to the victims – mostly girls. But what’s missing from this equation are efforts to halt the demand for these children and meaningful consequences for their predators; that’s what we’re doing today.”

Supervisor Knabe said: “We have a good opportunity now, as the new legislative season in Sacramento is gearing up, to continue to promote awareness of this horrific crime and develop effective legislation to help the victims and go after the scumbags who purchase and sell girls for sex,” he said. “We must address the “demand” side of this crime and make the penalties severe enough so that these “Johns” don’t continue to be nameless and free of any criminal record, while the girls are criminalized. No 12-year-old little girl is choosing this life and we must do everything we can to protect them.”

Every day, children – primarily girls – as young as 10 years-old are being coerced and sold into prostitution in Los Angeles County and in counties throughout the state. According to experts in the field, the average life expectancy of these children once they enter the sex trade is seven years, due to the ravages of HIV/AIDS and the violence to which they are regularly subjected. At the low end, a victim could make $3,500 a week while some victims earn as much as $1,000 a day, making child sex trafficking a highly lucrative business increasingly run by gangs.

“Like narcotics, we’re seeing the proliferation of sex trafficking being put forth by the gangs. We’re seeing girls as young as nine or 10,” said McDonnell. “The pimps set the minimum for them to make, they stay out there until they do or they’re beaten.”

The men who solicit sex from children, however, often are not arrested and prosecuted, and even when they are, typically face only a proverbial slap on the wrist. The motion, asks lawmakers to amend the state penal code to make soliciting sex with a minor a felony. It also requires the “customers” to register as sex offenders and increases the fine from $1,000 to $10,000. It calls on law enforcement to refocus its priorities and actively arrest and prosecute these predators.

“The buyers of sex can be anyone,” said Guymon. “They are professionals, tourists, the diversity of buyers allows them to blend into our communities. The majority are men, usually they are married, hold a good job and have an average to high IQ.” Evidence suggests that predators are seeking to have sex with younger girls who are perceived to be both healthier and more vulnerable.

Helping the survivors and changing the perception of young girls who are trafficked is essential, said Midkiff.

“For every teenage girl there were 20 adult customers per night who were purchasing her. This equals up to 140 customers per week for one single girl,” she said. “As long as sex buyers are prowling the streets and lurking in the internet demanding sex without any perceived consequences, we will not curtail this problem.”

Ridley-Thomas, Knabe Call for Stronger Penalties for Adults Soliciting from Children

In an unprecedented step in the fight against sex trafficking, Los Angeles County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Don Knabe are calling on state legislators to dramatically stiffen penalties for adults convicted of soliciting sex from children. There have been numerous efforts over the past several years to combat the growing scourge of sex trafficking, but the majority of those efforts at the local and state level have focused either on the pimps who exploit the girls, or on providing treatment and help for the victims. While these efforts are to be applauded, there is a loophole that must be closed with regard to the so-called “Johns” – whose punishment should fit their crime, according to a board motion by Ridley-Thomas and Knabe.

Every day, children – primarily girls – as young as 10 years-old are being coerced and sold into prostitution in Los Angeles County and in counties throughout the state. According to experts in the field, the average life expectancy of these children once they enter the sex trade is seven years, due to the ravages of HIV/AIDS and the violence to which they are regularly subjected. The men who solicit sex from children, however, often are not arrested and prosecuted, and even when they are, typically face only a proverbial slap on the wrist. But this is not consensual sex; it is child molestation and rape, and the punishment should fit the crime. Only the state legislature, however, can mandate criminal penalties.

The motion, to be presented Tuesday, authored by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Knabe, asks lawmakers to amend the state penal code to make paying for sex a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, if the victim is a minor. It also requires the “customers” to register as sex offenders, and increases the fine from $1,000 to $10,000. And it calls on law enforcement to refocus its priorities and actively arrest and prosecute these predators.

“I am proud of the work Los Angeles County has done over the past 18 months to bring awareness to the horrific crime of child sex trafficking,” said Knabe. “However, in addition to doing all we can to protect the young victims, we must aggressively penalize those who solicit girls for sex and ensure they are the ones prosecuted, not the victims.”

In addition, the motion calls on the board to support federal legislation currently under consideration that would strengthen federal laws against child sex trafficking.

Chairman Ridley-Thomas emphasized that all levels of government and law enforcement must work together to protect these children, mainly girls, from being exploited and terrorized. While children cannot legally consent to sex, they are often charged with a prostitution related offense and become enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

“This is not a victimless crime,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “These are children who are being exploited for the enjoyment of unscrupulous men, and it is our duty to protect them. To that end, California should step up and create the toughest laws in the nation that will either deter or, if necessary, punish those who purchase children.”

Days of Dialogue Trayvon Martin: Unfinished Business

On a recent Saturday morning a diverse group of about 150 people, including police officers, poets, clergy, coaches, students and the Los Angeles County sheriff, sat down to share their perspectives on the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin and a Florida jury’s exoneration of his killer, George Zimmerman.

The event, entitled Days of Dialogue: Trayvon Martin: Unfinished Business, was sponsored by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Empowerment Congress and several nonprofit organizations.

“This is a methodology that we have used for many years, starting with the O.J. Simpson verdicts,” the Supervisor said. “It brings together people who want to have a serious conversation about the crises that confront us, and then they take what they have share back into the communities, offices, churches and homes.”

Throughout the morning, participants sat at small tables in the Supervisor’s Exposition Park constituent office, with trained moderators who guided their discussion.

“The beauty of this type of engagement is that we all come to the table as equals,” the Supervisor added.

Indeed that was the case. LAPD captains and officers, as well as the US Attorney for the Central District of California Andre Birotte, Jr., Sheriff Lee Baca, City Attorney Mike Feuer, senior citizens, community activists and many others shared and traded opinions.

Christopher Hampton, 21, sat at a table with Baca, and after the event said the experience had altered his perspective on law enforcement.

“I never would’ve thought the Sheriff would’ve been so receptive to hearing me, but he was. I think more people need to know that. They need to know that the Sheriff really listens,” Hampton said.

Never far from the conversation was the topic of racial profiling and the senseless death of a teenager “armed” only with a bag of Skittles and a soda.

“These stand your ground laws are a problem, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re in Los Angles or in Florida,” Baca said. “If I go to Florida and I’m not in uniform, does that mean it’s all right for someone to harm me because they say I pose a threat?”

Despite the seriousness of the conversations, the morning ended with many positive reflections and calls for more dialogues.

As Sharon Lyle of Long Beach put it, the shooting of Trayvon Martin had this outcome: “It destroyed a life but created a movement.

Carson Residents Swap Guns for Gifts

Los Angeles residents continue to turn in their guns for gift certificates. In a recent Guns for Gifts exchange sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, residents happily opened their car trunks to hand over their weapons to Sheriff’s deputies. In exchange they received gift cards to Target or Ralphs Market. Several elected officials from the city of Carson as well as Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor’s Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes Carson, were on hand to encourage residents to turn in their weapons and instead use the gift cards to buy food for their families or toys for their children.

[raw] Gun owners received $50 for a non-operational firearm, $100 for a handgun and $200 for an assault weapon resulting in a total of $16,850 in gift cards being distributed throughout the day. The collected guns will be melted at GERDAU Steel Mill and recycled into rebar for construction.

“It’s simple. Firearms are a threat to public safety,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “Nothing good comes from the point of a gun and I commend these residents for surrendering their firearms.”


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Seven Second District Neighborhoods to Celebrate National Night Out

[raw]Seven communities in the Second District will be organizing local events to promote peaceful collaboration between neighborhood residents and law enforcement. The events are the culmination of National Night Out, a year-long national community campaign.

“In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s racial profiling and unnecessary and untimely death, it is more important than ever to bring residents and local law enforcement together, to not only create safe, peaceful and empowered communities, but also to clearly delineate the ways in which citizens and law enforcement should best work together,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The first National Night Out took place on Tuesday, August 7th 1984, and began an effort to promote community involvement in crime prevention. That first year, 2.5 million Americans took part across 400 communities in 23 states.

National Night Out 2013, now in its 30th year, is expected to be the largest to date, surpassing last year’s numbers, when 37.5 million people in 15,704 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide participated.

The event now serves as a catalyst for neighborhood transformation.

Along with turning on the traditional outside lights and keeping front porch vigils, most participating cities and towns celebrate with a variety of festive events, such as block parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, safety fairs and youth events. National Project Coordinator, Matt Peskin said, “This is a night for America to stand together and promote awareness, safety, and neighborhood unity. National Night Out showcases the importance of police-community partnerships and citizen involvement in our fight for a safer nation.”

Peskin added: “While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy and determination to help make neighborhoods a safer place year round. The night celebrates safety and crime prevention successes and works to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days.”

Click here to download the flyers.

[/raw] Tuesday, August 6, 2013

LYNWOOD Century Station
LYNWOOD CITY HALL
MLK between Bullis Road and Hulme Avenue
11330 Bullis Road, Lynwood, 90262
6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Station (323) 568-4787
City Staff (310) 603-0220 ext. 506

COMPTON Station
GATEWAY TOWNE CENTER
1621 S. Alameda Street Compton, 90220
7:00pm to 9:00pm
Station (310) 605-5500

FLORENCE FIRESTONE Century Station
Youth Activity League (In front)
7901 S. Compton Avenue at Antwerp
Los Angeles, 90002
5:00pm to 8:00pm
Station (323) 586-7250

WISEBURN South LA Station
OCEANGATE CHURCH
13443 Oceangate Avenue
Del Aire/Hawthorne, 90250
4:00pm to 8:00pm
Station (323) 242-8784

LADERA
Marina Del Rey Station Personnel
LADERA PARK (Upper Outdoor Recreation Area)
6027 Ladera Park Avenue
Los Angeles, 90056
5:00pm to 8:00pm
Station (310) 410-7604

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

CARSON STATION & CITY HALL
21356 S. Avalon Blvd.
Carson, 90745
6:00p.m. to 9:00pm
Station (310) 847-8386

Saturday, August 10, 2013

WILLOWBROOK & ATHENS
HELLEN KELLER Park & MAGIC JOHNSON Park
905 E. El Segundo Blvd., Los Angeles, 90059
9:00am to 3:00pm
Station (310) 965-8659
Century Station