Lawmakers and survivors are urging the California legislature to do more to combat child prostitution.
If passed, AB 1495 would allow prosecutors to go after sex traffickers and their clients through civil court.
San Diego is one of the FBI's top 13 cities in the U.S. for human trafficking. The illegal industry has grown to an estimated $810 million enterprise.
A trafficker controlling about four victims makes an average yearly income over $670,000, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.
The new power would allow county and city prosecutors to sue the so-called “Johns” for anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 per unlawful act.
State Rep. Brian Maienschien wants those who buy sex with children to know there will be major consequences.
“They’re benefiting tremendously financially from this awful, awful industry,” he said. “We want to put these guys out of business.”
Tiffany Mester was only 14 years old when she was forced into prostitution by a pimp who was 18 years old.
“I didn’t know who I was or how valuable I was. This pimp knew exactly how to exploit me,” Mester said.
Eighty percent of the penalties will be paid into a special county fund to provide assistance to minor victims. The remaining 20 percent would be available to prosecutors to help monitor, investigate, and prosecute the sexual abuse of children.
The proposed legislation would also direct any funds awared to minor victims or their parents be held in a trust until the minor reaches age 21.
Mester believes the proposed legislation will help take back what's been taken from young girls who are going through the same experience.
She hopes the money raised by the bill will go to help victims.
The Commercial Child Rape Prevention Act is sponsored by the Children’s Advocacy Institute.
CAI Staff Attorney Melanie Delgado said it's powerful to hear from the young men and women who have experienced being victimized by traffickers.
“It’s very easy to think that this is a problem happening somewhere else to someone else. This is happening in San Diego and it’s a really big problem,” said CAI Staff Attorney Melanie Delgado.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee will consider the bill on Tuesday.
According to a study by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego's sex trafficking industry can impact about 3,000 to 8,000 victims, mostly women and young girls, every year. The average age of those victims is 16 years old.
Victims in need of help and people interested in more information about the camaign can go here.