(The Center Square) – Los Angeles is in crisis as public prostitution becomes normal across vast swathes of the city and police can do little to stop it under new California laws, according to a new report from the New York Post. City officials told The Center Square while the Figueroa Corridor in South Central is gaining the most national media attention, major public prostitution scenes in the Hollywood and Century corridors are also causes for concern, and that due to intimidation, reporting for crimes associated with prostitution is only a small fraction of the real total.
The report outlines how a 40 block area of South Central is covered by hundreds of prostitutes, some charging as little as $40 for some acts, with “10 girls on the corner, condoms on the ground,” all in “broad daylight.”
Under the Safer Streets for All Act signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2022 and entering effect in January 2023, “loitering with the intent to commit prostitution” is no longer a misdemeanor criminal offense. Anyone previously charged or convicted of such misdemeanors are able to apply to resentencing and expungement of the conviction from their records. Bill author Sen. Scott Wiener, D–San Francisco, argued having loitering to commit prostitution a misdemeanor crime “failed to protect public safety, in addition to contributing to the discrimination on the basis of gender, race, class and perceived sex worker status – in particular, targeting Black women and members of the transgender community,” and that his bill “simply eliminates an anti-loitering offense that results in the legal harassment of LGTBQ+, Black, and Brown communities for simply existing and looking like a “sex worker” to law enforcement.”
With this new law in place, LAPD sources told the Post officers are only allowed to offer help if they believe a prostitute is underage, and that minors sent to shelters or other programs are usually back out walking the streets for sex work days later. Experts say many are recruited from other states and brought to Los Angeles, and the local police commander told the Post approximately 95% of the prostitutes have “pimps,” most of whom are tied to street gangs in the area.
In September, the US Attorney’s Office, the Department of Children and Family Services, local nonprofits, and city elected officials, LAPD, and the LAC City Attorney’s Office announced a new program called the “Figueroa Initiative” to help victims of human trafficking, but it’s too soon to tell if the program has produced any results.
Speaking to The Center Square, City of Los Angeles Councilwoman Traci Park noted that Figueroa is only one of three major prostitution corridors in the city — with the others in the Century Corridor near Los Angeles International Airport and the eponymous Hollywood Corridor — and that Sacramento is to blame for the consequences of the law.
“This is another soft on crime bill out of Sacramento leading to more crime on the streets of Los Angeles, and unfortunately in many cases it’s women and vulnerable people who are the victims of this,” Park said. “I’m very encouraged to see LAPD’s focus on recovering victims out of this heinous business but it’s unfortunate that lawmakers don’t anticipate the consequences of many of the laws they pass.”
In response, Park has put forward a motion to assess what strategies and tools the city is using to address human trafficking and what more the city can do within the new confines of state law to protect vulnerable women.
Staff from Park’s office also shared that police had told them human trafficking and related crimes remain heavily underreported due to fear of reprisal, which means the magnitude of the crisis is likely not reflected in existing crime data.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’s office did not respond to a media inquiry by the time of publication.