District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is pushing new state legislation that would endorse the office’s unusual approach toward prosecuting some pimps.

Three years ago, using wiretaps and other information collected during a broad investigation of gang activities in the southeastern San Diego neighborhood called Lincoln Park, prosecutors obtained unique convictions for several men accused of pimping women. The men pleaded guilty to an enhanced charge — pimping for the benefit of a gang — and got harsher sentences as a result.

Prosecutors say the money collected from prostitution supports gangs and it’s becoming a larger component of their income since the penalties can be less than drug crimes. To reverse the trend, prosecutors want to attach harsher penalties to pimping.

Law enforcement officials have long said gangs are connected to prostitution, but the 2008 case was the first time county prosecutors successfully outlined a financial relationship in court and got increased penalties: more prison time, stricter probation rules, gang registration and a strike under California’s three-strike law.

On Tuesday, the county supervisors unanimously endorsed Dumanis’ push to formally categorize pimping and pandering as gang offenses like drive-by-shootings and selling drugs. The proposal would still require support from state legislators before becoming law.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who sponsored the county’s advisory vote, said it could help a needed crackdown and “provide law enforcement the additional tools to attack prostitution, such as the use of wiretap.”

The District Attorney’s Office did not speak at the meeting.

Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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