Women wearing only “g-strings” and bending over in front of traffic have become an increasingly typical sight in National City, California, as prostitution difficulties escalate following the implementation of a contentious state law, according to the city’s mayor.
“They’re waving to people on the freeway or, just to be honest with you, they are bending over for the freeway. I don’t know how else to put it; they’re showing their wares,” National City Mayor Ron Morrison told Fox News Digital in an interview this month.
In July 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 357, which removed prior legislation that prohibited loitering with the purpose of participating in prostitution. Morrison argued that the instant Newsom’s pen touched the bill, pimps in the state understood they could expand their prostitution operations without fear of repercussions from law enforcement.
“The moment it was signed by the governor, boom, everyone knew the rules were out the window,” Morrison told Fox News Digital.
“Those that are out there on the street, most of them are wearing less than what you would consider a scanty negligee. It is just flaunting in everybody’s face. And so a lot of people are screaming, ‘Hey, you know, can’t you get them on indecent exposure?’ And the problem is the way our laws are read in this state. The definition of indecent exposure is as long … as the genitals are covered. Anything else is fair game out in public.”
Morrison describes National City as a diversified working-class community of about 60,000 people located just west of San Diego on the bay. The mayor explained that in an urban region, sex workers have been known to cross the San Diego municipal border – but never at the rate he’s now seeing.
“Very much beyond brazen,” Morrison said of what he’s seeing on his streets.
Prostitutes congregate in a downtown area facing a motorway, and they are most frequently observed early in the morning and about 3 p.m. Morrison noted that a recent California legislation legalising jaywalking has exacerbated the problem, as some women stand in traffic to attract a john.
“I was driving on one of the streets the other day, and there’s this young lady standing there in the middle of the street wearing basically a G-string, and that was it, and a couple of pasties. But she was right in front of my car, I couldn’t move. So, I did ask her very politely, ‘Would you please move out of the street?’ And she looked at me and says, ‘If you don’t want to talk to me, you can go around,'” Morrison said.
Businesses ranging from mom-and-pop shops to large hotel chains have complained to the mayor that the prostitutes are driving away business, forcing some to refund families who were shocked to see almost naked women while on vacation in California.
Morrison claims that a local school closed its windows after prostitutes were often discovered hanging out near its gates.
The mayor claims that Senate Bill 357, which he calls a “idiotic law” that should be known as the “Safe Streets for Pimps Initiative,” has not only left his town and other municipalities in the state dealing with an increase in sex workers on the street but has also incentivized human trafficking.
“This one has just opened the doors to prostitution, sex trafficking, child sex trading, I mean, you name it. This has obviously done that. And I don’t think anyone that is not just purely politically motivated could disagree with that,” Morrison said.
The mayor identified himself as a “nonpartisan” who has worked at various levels of government for more than 30 years, with the primary goal of “looking out for people in National City and their businesses” rather than playing politics in Sacramento.
Senate Bill 357 was introduced by Democrat state Sen. Scott Wiener, who said that it would assist safeguard transgender women from police harassment.
“[The previous law] allowed police officers to arrest a person, not based on what they did but based solely on how a person looks,” Wiener told local media earlier this year. “So, an officer could arrest someone because they were wearing tight clothing, high heels and extra lipstick.”
Members of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), one of the largest and oldest direct service providers for sex and labour trafficking survivors in the United States, previously told Fox News Digital that they supported the bill “because we know that reducing the criminalization of survivors will help prevent human trafficking.”
“Traffickers rely on our systems to criminalise victims so that they are unable to access safety due to their records and are vulnerable to continued exploitation,” Leigh LaChapelle, CAST’s associate director of survivor advocacy, told Fox News shortly after the law went into force earlier this year.
“The impact of these encounters with law enforcement reinforce already heightened stigma when someone is arrested for this offense due to the difficulties securing employment and safe housing with an arrest record relating to the sex trade,” LaChapelle added. “Violation of this discriminatory law also puts immigrants in jeopardy of deportation, loss of residency or denial of reentry due to a misdemeanor conviction.”
Although prostitution is still illegal in California, Morrison claims that the new law has essentially legalised it as police refrain from intervening or communicating with the women.
“Senate Bill 357, which for all intents and purposes made prostitution legal because what it said is that officers can no longer contact people based on the idea of loitering for the purpose of prostitution. So, it basically tells the police your hands are off,” Morrison said.
He observed that some of the females on the street appear to be underage, while the quantity of makeup the sex workers wear makes determining age difficult, and the city has previously seen kids as young as 12 working on the streets.
“A lot of the times [police] found out that these were juveniles … or that they were basically being sex trafficked, and they could get them out of that. Now, they basically have no legal opportunity to even talk to them,” Morrison said.
With prostitution openly practised on the streets, additional crimes such as gunshots and assaults have followed. Morrison claims that an eight-month-pregnant prostitute was kidnapped, beaten, and raped just a few weeks earlier.
“Those [crime incidents] go on our crime stats. We’ve had shootings, everything else involving the prostitutes and the pimps. So, those crime stats go on us. These people don’t live here in National City and people here don’t want them, but we’re getting the crime stats,” he said.
Morrison stated that he is collaborating with the local district attorney and police department to develop strategies for navigating state legislation while cleaning up the streets. The police department has carried out “john stings” in the past, but such operations need a team of about 30 officers, or half of the city’s police force, and weeks of planning, according to Morrison.
“People here are not happy about this in the least. And the problem is they expect us locally to do something about it. And we’re sitting here with our hands behind our back with handcuffs on that Sacramento was placed on us,” Morrison said.