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Advocates rally in National City to support bill making child sex solicitation a felony

Advocates and survivors gathered in National City on Monday to urge the city to become the first in the state to support Senate Bill 1414.

The bill would make buying a child for sex a felony. Currently, under California's statutory rape law, sex with a minor can either be a felony or a misdemeanor.

SB 1414 is authored by state Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield). It would make soliciting sex from a minor a felony regardless of whether the person knew the victim was a minor or not.


San Diego region is among the 13 worst spots in the country for human trafficking, according to the FBI.

National City Mayor Ron Morrison said the problem is especially bad in his city. He blames that on the passage of Senate Bill 357 in 2022, which decriminalizes loitering for sex work.

“The problem is with (SB) 357, what it did was it took everything, all the instruments out of the hands of our community," he said. "And out of our police department. The only thing that was left was the indecent exposure law, which if you look at it, it basically says the person has to be naked in public basically to even involve anything.”

He said sex workers walked the street with impunity, especially along Roosevelt Avenue between West Seventh and West Third streets. The problem also bleeds to National City Boulevard in front of Integrity Charter School.

"We have what some people are referring to as the 'America's Lingerie Show on the Streets,'" he said.


Shane Harris, president of the People's Association of Justice Advocates, said some of the sex workers are minors. According to the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency, the average age of entry to sex trafficking is 16 years old.

According to a 2016 study by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University, an estimated 8,000 adults and children are trafficked each year in San Diego County.

Harris said SB 357 was a mistake and that it took away the police's ability to stop human trafficking.

“When you take the loitering question away, you take the police ability away to interfere, to intercept, to intervene and stop a child from being sold in that kind of way," he said. "And I think that was the other side of the argument that they were proved wrong on.”

He urged National City to pass a resolution to support SB 1414. The City Council is dark in July, but Morrison said it would take the matter up in August.

The California Public Defenders Association opposes the bill, saying it unnecessarily punishes those who have no intention of having sex with a minor.

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