As the scope of human trafficking has gained international attention, Los Angeles County prosecutors have been targeting pimps–traditionally viewed as merely equally culpable partners in the prostitution trade–with charges that can carry significantly greater punishment than pandering, reports the Los Angeles Times. In 2014, prosecutors filed human trafficking charges against 81 people — up from 25 in 2013 and 18 in 2012. The office charged 40 people during the first six months of 2015.
The steady uptick began after voters passed Proposition 35 in 2012, stiffening sentences and making the cases easier to prosecute. The shift is part of a larger change among law enforcement officials nationwide, who increasingly view women and children involved in prostitution as victims, not criminals. Last week, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced the creation of a task force to provide relief to victims of human trafficking. He also ordered his deputies to stop arresting children on prostitution charges.