Pennsylvania Considering Human Trafficking Bill

The law is catching up with human traffickers in Pennsylvania, but it will be up to citizens’ groups to change public perception of both the traffickers and the victims, said State Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-12th District) who introduced Senate Bill 75.

This bill to fight human trafficking in Pennsylvania was unanimously approved December 10 in the Senate. SB 75 more clearly defines human trafficking and sex trafficking and has “specific punishment and substantial penalties.”

Pennsylvania is considered a “pass-through” state as well as a destination for human trafficking, the Montgomery County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition  says. Traffickers make use of the many highways in the state to move victims “between trafficking hotspots” in Ohio, New Jersey and New York, and in the I-95 corridor along the Eastern Seaboard. Truck stops in the state “are known for playing host to sex trafficking,” the coalition’s website says.

According to the Montgomery County Network of Victim Assistance, calls from Pennsylvania to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hot line increased 310 percent from 1990 to 2011. Trafficking has been found in nail salons, cleaning services, farms, independent contractors, hotels and commercial sex trade through the Internet or on the streets, along with domestic servitude involving housekeepers and nannies.

Greenleaf’s legislation more clearly defines sex and labor trafficking, increases fines and penalties, expands resources for victims and calls for increased training for first responders. The Senate Bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee. Amendments have been worked out with groups in law enforcement, the administration and advocates,

“There will be a need to advocate for it after it’s passed, to educate people on how to deal with and curtail it,” Greenleaf said. “We should stop treating victims as criminals; they need help.

If the law passes, in 2015 “we will begin training every police officer in Pennsylvania on how to deal with this issue,” he said. “Then the work really begins. Citizens’ coalitions have to change public opinion and start to rehabilitate the victims.”

Learn more at Linda Finarelli’s The Mercury News article: Human trafficking bill pending in Pa. House.

Pennsylvania residents are urged to contact their Representatives to support the passage of this bill in the House.

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