Human trafficking happens in Idaho. But it’s unclear how big the problem is. So Sara Thomas, state Appellate Public Defender and a member of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Commission, is trying to find out.
“What happens is, they’re charged as sex crimes or they’re charged as violent crimes but they’re not necessarily labeled as human trafficking,” says Thomas.
“So it’s hard to get an exact number or good data on that. But we are getting reports from different police officers that are starting to identify that. We’re getting reports from all over the state, not just in one particular county or one particular area. It’s a growing problem. We’re seeing it Idaho Falls were a couple of girls were taken and they were on a bus on their way to Los Angeles when they were intercepted, where they were going to be sold. We’re seeing it in Coeur d’Alene where people are purchasing women, girls underage, at hotel rooms as they’re brought through town. We see it here in Boise with people recruiting at the Boise Towne Square Mall where they’re trying to get girls into the sex trade.”
Thomas’ department is trying to get legislation passed this year that makes purchasing a minor, anyone under the age of 18 for sexual purposes, a felony. Right now, there are instances where it’s simply a misdemeanor and may not even be a crime at all if the girls are being paid with something other than cash, such as food or shelter.
Thomas says, “We want to stop that and make sure this is a felony and make sure these people have to register as sex offenders.”
Learn more at Samantha Wright’s Boise State Public Radio article: Idaho Lawmakers Will Be Asked To Weigh In On Human Trafficking.