Legislation strengthening California’s effort to end human trafficking was signed into law Thursday.

SB 677, authored by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, will allow courts to seize houses or vehicles used for human trafficking. The bill will also allow for civil penalties of up to $25,000.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law Thursday.

“Between 14,500 and 17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States each year and enslaved for purposes of sexual or labor exploitation, and unfortunately many of the cases occur here in California,” Yee said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of State estimates that between 600,000 and 800,000 people are victims of human trafficking worldwide each year. Many are brought to the United States from Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe.

A 2005 study by the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley found 57 cases of forced labor operations in California between 1998 and 2003, including operations in the Bay Area.

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