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Sexual Exploitation Thrives in Orange County After California Law Change

Sexual Exploitation Thrives in Orange County After California Law Change

Beach Boulevard in Stanton, Calif., on June 10, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

John Fredricks
John Fredricks

6/26/2024

Updated: 6/30/2024

0

STANTON, Calif.As a man prepared to stop his vehicle at a red light with dozens of other cars, a woman in her early 20s quickly crossed the street clad in brightly-colored, revealing clothing.
“This was the same area I found them last time about a week ago,” Raymond, a pseudonym, told The Epoch Times.
“When they wear outfits like that it makes them easier to spot, obviously.”
The intersection of Beach Boulevard and Cerritos Avenue is known as “The Four Corners of Hell” among Reddit users who live nearby.
Having struggled with sexual addiction since his public school years, Raymond told The Epoch Times he’s in a rough place in his life, and he regrets visiting this area of Orange County.
“I was not even looking for sex workers, but they definitely found me,” he said.
For law enforcement, anti-human trafficking groups, and ministry workers seeking to combat sexual exploitation in Southern California, a noticeable increase in prostitution quickly followed the July 2022 passage of Senate Bill 357, a state law that decriminalizes “loitering for the intent to engage in sex work.”
“Thanks to Governor Newsom and Senator Wiener’s leadership, California boldly stands on the side of justice today,” Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang said at the time in an ACLU press release. “This law will make our communities safer for all Californians.”
Introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) as The Safer Streets for All Act, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom and came into effect in January 2023.
Mr. Wiener saw the new law as a victory for sex workers and LGBT people. “Arresting people because they ‘look like’ sex workers is discriminatory and wrong, and it endangers sex workers and trans people of color,” he said in a statement.
But even before going into effect, experts in combatting exploitation practices noted that once traffickers heard about the bill, areas known for prostitution became more active.
“The girls [were] reporting violence to our workers out there as the effects of this bill increased prostitution activity and put the community at risk,” said Stephany Powell, director of law enforcement training and outreach at Washington’s National Center on Sexual Exploitation, told The Epoch Times.
“As SB 357 [took] law enforcement tools away from police officers responding to prostitution and sexual exploitation, an increase of sex workers came soon after the bill was communicated and not even in effect yet.”
In Stanton, an Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) cruiser slowly pulled up to a young Hispanic woman wearing brightly colored Spandex who was standing near a motel off Beach Boulevard. After seeing the deputies, the woman quickly left the scene and crossed to the other side of the road out of the sight.
Grasping her large smartphone, she appeared to be taking directions as she walked briskly, constantly looking from the phone to street signs.
“Before SB 357, patrol operations were able to detain potential victims for soliciting themselves for prostitution, [and] through their training and experience they were able to conduct thorough investigations to determine if the subject was a juvenile and/or a human trafficking victim,” Carrie Braun, the Orange County sheriff’s  director of public affairs and community engagement, told The Epoch Times.
“Since SB 357’s instatement, patrols are no longer able to conduct these small but important investigations, limiting their opportunities to contact and connect with potential victims.”
Prostitution appears to be thriving around the Beach Boulevard area, north of the 22 Freeway, which for decades has caught the attention of customers.
In one instance, a young woman standing in a fast-food parking lot waved and gestured to a man who had been watching her from his car for several minutes.
One block away from the Stanton Indoor Swap Meet, a mother and child walked past several alleged prostitutes who stood feet from each other.
When an Epoch Times reporter approached one alleged sex worker for a possible interview, she asked for cash first, holding her phone in a way that suggested someone was listening.
“We have a problem if you aren’t going to pay,” she said before smirking. Then she turned and walked  quickly away.
Shortly after, an unmarked sheriff’s cruiser slowly passed the group. Without even looking up, the women slowly dispersed, while looking intently at their phones.
The offices of Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Scott Weiner did not respond for comment by deadline.
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John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.

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