This week L.A. County leader Don Knabe noted that a vast majority of the area's child prostitution cases (84 percent) are happening in his Long Beach-South Bay supervisorial district.

He thinks the numbers are underreported, and he has asked the county probation department for a report. At the same time, the issue is coming to a head statewide.

A campaign kicked off this week to increase the consequences for those convicted of sex trafficking in California:

The Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act is proposed for the November ballot. Organizers need to collect about 800,000 valid signatures.

According to a statement, it would …

… Increase penalties and fines for those who engage in human trafficking, provide new restrictions for those convicted of these crimes, and mandate new law enforcement training to ensure proper enforcement and sensitivity for victims across the justice system.

At least one report says it would the toughest “human trafficking” law in America.

Consequences include up to $1.5 million in fines for convicted sex traffickers, making traffickers register as sex offenders, and stopping prosecution of underage prostitution suspects.

Knabe says the number of girls on the street in his district is underestimated:

We think these numbers are representative of a much larger number of girls forced into prostitution who have not yet been arrested, or are not being determined to be sexual victims in screenings when placed in either foster care of the juvenile justice system,” said Knabe. “It's the biggest problem we have on this issue – we don't know what we don't know.

CASE advocate Leah Albright-Byrd, a former child prostitute herself, says:

Imagine being 11 years old and having your body used and abused for the sake of someone else's monetary gain.

[Added: Of course, there's been some debate about the state of sex trafficking in America, and certainly there's been exaggeration].

This is the hot issue for 2012. Find out more here.

[@dennisjromero / / @LAWeeklyNews]

LA Weekly