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Supervisors want to get tougher on men who seek underage prostitutes

September 03, 2013|By Seema Mehta
  • L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, above, sponsored the resolution along with Supervisor Don Knabe.
L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, above, sponsored the resolution… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

Trying to curb the number of men who pay to have sex with children, Los Angeles County leaders Tuesday urged state lawmakers to toughen penalties for men who seek out underage prostitutes.

The resolution approved unanimously by the county Board of Supervisors calls for "johns" to face felony rather than misdemeanor charges, to be required to register as sex offenders and to pay higher fines.

Currently, “The adults are essentially given a slap on the wrist by sending them to something called 'John school.' That’s just ridiculous, and it’s high time we treat the adults as what they are: predators engaging in behavior that is morally repugnant,” said board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas in an interview before the hearing.

Ridley-Thomas sponsored the resolution along with Supervisor Don Knabe.

Previous attempts to fight child sex trafficking have focused on the girls -- treating them as victims rather than criminals -- and their pimps. The effort to go after the customers is an attempt to reduce demand, which is rampant in parts of L.A. County. Some gangs have turned to child prostitution instead of drugs because they face less scrutiny from law enforcement and can repeatedly make money off the girls, as young as 10, compared with drugs, which they sell once, according to officials.

“If we don’t stop demand, nothing changes,” said Michelle Guymon, who runs a sex trafficking unit for the county Probation Department.

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Twitter: @LATSeema

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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