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Stronger Penalties For Gang-Related Crimes Proposed By San Diego Law Makers

A bill co-sponsored by San Diego-area lawmakers to add pimping, pandering and human trafficking to a list of crimes associated with street gangs will receive its first vetting by an Assembly committee next week.

Assembly Bill 918 amends a list of 33 offenses that increase penalties for gang-related crimes, Assemblyman Marty Block, D-Bonita, said at a news conference. Sen. Mark Wyland, R-San Diego, is sponsoring the legislation in the state Senate.

Gang members are recruiting teenage girls for prostitution in schools and "selling them over and over," Block said. Where drugs can only be sold once, girls are a "renewable resource for gangs," he said.

Street gangs are making about as much money from prostitution as they are from selling drugs or weapons, and hybrid gangs have formed solely to reap in the profits, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said.

Sheriff Bill Gore said that since 2007, a task force created to combat the problem has arrested 164 pimps, 44 percent of whom are gang members. Of the 372 female victims, about 30 percent were minors, he said.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said her eyes were opened to the problem last year during a ride-along with the sheriff's department for a curfew sweep in Spring Valley.

Of the 30 juveniles picked up during the sweep, nearly all were girls.

"They were on the streets working -- and they weren't working for themselves," Jacob said. "They were working for their pimps. The pimps were gang members."

Such stories should dissuade people from the idea that prostitution is a victimless crime, Gore said. In cases like these, it amounts to "despicable criminal activity," the sheriff said.

The bill goes before the Assembly Public Safety Committee in Sacramento on Tuesday and, if eventually passed by the Legislature, could reach the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown by September or October, Block said.

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