“Operation Cross Country,” an FBI task force, successfully carried out a nation-wide sweep for prostitution rings last week, rescuing at least 12 children who had been forced into sexual slavery. FBI officials cited San Francisco as the #1 city in the country for child prostitution issues and it was there that at least 4 pimps were arrested in the area. These sweeps have, in total, resulted in approximately 1,350 convictions and $3.1 million in asset forfeiture.
California law dictates (CA Penal Code §647(b)) that anyone soliciting prostitution (offering to engage in sex for money) or actually participating in acts of prostitution be dealt with harshly. In other words, law enforcement officials argue that these individuals ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, there is more often than not very little press concerning what happens to the “middlemen” in prostitution scenarios – the pimps. A pimp may also be charged with “supervising or aiding” a prostitute under CA Penal Code §653.23.
Certainly, it could be argued that any given civilized society has the responsibility to protect children from becoming the tools of adults who would sell their bodies. A first-time misdemeanor charge of prostitution or supervising or aiding a prostitute carries with it a possible 6 months in jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. “Pimping” and “supervising or aiding a prostitute” is delineated as separate crimes under state law. Yet, in most cases, task forces like Operation Cross Country are the result of public and political pressures. There is a marked disparity between the laws concerning prostitution in California and the attention it is given in the media and other pubic outlets.