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State Senator Toni Atkins Announces Legislation To Combat Human Trafficking

State Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduces three new measures focused...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: State Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduces three new measures focused on targeting human traffickers and protecting victims, San Diego, Calif., March 31, 2017.

State Senator Toni Atkins announced on Friday a package of new legislation focused on targeting human traffickers and protecting victims.

State Senator Toni Atkins announced on Friday a package of new legislation focused on targeting human traffickers and protecting victims.

One bill would require "all hotels and motels in California to train their employees on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking and how to report those signs to law enforcement," Atkins said.

RELATED: Authorities Look To San Diego Hotels For Help In Fight Against Sex Trafficking

She also proposed a second bill that targets pimps by allowing a prosecutor to introduce at trial evidence of an accused trafficker’s past sex-trafficking crimes. A third measure she proposed would provide services for child survivors.

"We need to give victims a safe place to stay, removed from their trafficker," Atkins said. "We also need to provide children with mental health counseling to overcome the specific type of trauma that comes from being trafficked."

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is partnering with Atkins to support the legislation. She said San Diego is among the top cities for child prostitution and that most of the perpetrators are gang members.

"Once girls or boys are under the control of the gangs, victims are tattooed, they’re branded, and beaten to maintain profits for the traffickers," Dumanis said.

If more people are trained to spot the warning signs of human trafficking, more pimps will be caught, she said.

More than 8,100 people in San Diego County are victimized by human traffickers each year. Some of the victims are children as young as 12 years old.

Wendy Barnes was at the announcement of the legislation to describe her experience being trapped in prostitution for 13 years, beginning when she was just 15.

"When you’re in that life you can’t even imagine," she said. "There are no more hopes or dreams."

Now Barnes is an advocate for the new legislation from Atkins. She said her pimp typically checked 6 to 12 girls into a hotel at a time, and she’s sure the hotel staff knew about the abuse.

"They would look at us and they could see the bruises, they could hear the yelling and screaming," she said.

Atkins is hopeful the bills will make it to the governor’s desk by fall.

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