Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham announced two anti-human trafficking bills Feb. 26, giving law enforcement and District Attorneys more tools to combat traffickers.
San Luis Obispo Superior Court has seen several alleged human trafficking cases in recent months and San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) Investigations Lieutenant John Bledsoe calls human trafficking a “very prominent problem in our communities.”
Cunningham is hoping to build on previous legislation from his last term in the California Assembly and San Luis Obispo’s position geographically to save lives.
“We were able to pass a number of important bills to fight trafficking last year, but there is still more we can do to protect victims and give law enforcement the tools they need.” Cunningham said in a written statement.
Changes include using more gender-neutral language and more broad language that is more likely to result in action against trafficking rings.
Cunningham explained one-fourth of trafficking victims are children in a video on his website.
“It’s right here on the Central Coast, and we have to stop it,” he said.
According to Bledsoe, San Luis Obispo is a popular destination for pimps to stop when traveling through California. SLOPD has gone undercover, captured and prosecuted several individuals on trafficking charges.
Cunningham has been working to fight trafficking since he was elected in 2016. His most recent bills were sent to the Assembly Committee on Public Safety. The bills are awaiting a hearing date.
Previously, Cunningham proposed AB 1868, which gives schools the option to teach students about the potential dangers that come with sending sexually explicit photos or videos on the internet.
Spotting human trafficking
Bledsoe said a common red flag is hotel rooms with a lot of foot traffic throughout the day. He said it can be hard to recognize the difference between a drug deal and trafficking, but signs to look for are if it is primarily men visiting the room, and if visits last 30-60 minutes.
Drugs deals, however, often last for five to ten minutes, Bledsoe said.
Political science junior Haley Schmidman is president of the campus club A Better World, dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking.
“We as students can all help contribute by learning the signs of human trafficking” Schmidman wrote in an email to Mustang News. “On a community level, awareness is one of the first steps to take towards helping reduce human trafficking.”