States act to combat human trafficking

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, July 16, 2014

States all over the map are taking steps to curb human trafficking.

The activity is described as one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world generating more than $32 billion annually. It’s estimated that more than 20 million people are being trafficked world-wide. In the U.S., victims are commonly transported along the interstate highway system.

A new law in Pennsylvania gives prosecutors a comprehensive legal definition of human trafficking that is intended to result in more successful convictions, and enhance punishments for traffickers.

Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, said the law addresses the weaknesses in the state’s current law that often allows traffickers to be charged with lesser crimes.

“This legislation takes aim at one of the most tragic and destructive crimes in modern history that is being committed on a large scale in Pennsylvania and around the world,” Greenleaf said in a news release.

In Colorado, a similar rule enacted provides a comprehensive legal definition of trafficking.

The new law makes it easier to prosecute offenders and also establishes an ongoing council to study the problem.

Florida lawmakers approved two new laws to increase prosecution of trafficking offenders and provide better services to survivors.

According to the U.S. State Department, Florida has the third-highest trafficking rate in the nation. The average age of people sold into the trafficking trade is 12-14.

One provision in the Florida law removes the statute of limitations to allow prosecution for certain human trafficking offenses at any time.

“Human trafficking is the modern form of slavery and a heartbreaking reality of our time,” stated Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. “Gov. Scott and the legislature are making clear we will not sit by and allow this abuse of our most vulnerable.”

In Ohio, a new law is intended to reduce occurrences of trafficking. Penalties for soliciting minors for sex will become a felony crime rather than a misdemeanor. Other rule changes include prohibiting sex-for-hire advertisements depicting a minor and extending the statute of limitations on related crimes.

Kylla Leeburg, deputy director of Truckers Against Trafficking, a nonprofit organization that educates trucking and travel plaza industry members on domestic sex trafficking, has said that truckers and others can play an important role in combating sex trafficking.

She said anyone who suspects human trafficking is taking place can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888 and report what they know.

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