For Immediate Release
Today, the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf’s SB 75 that aims to help law enforcement arrest and prosecute human traffickers.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world generating billions of dollars by using force, fraud and coercion to subject people — both minors and adults — to sexual or labor exploitation.
Greenleaf’s bill more clearly defines the crime of human trafficking and increases fines and penalties. The bill would create the Pennsylvania Council for the Prevention of Human Trafficking, increase training for first responders and expand the resources available to victim service providers.
Senator Greenleaf said, “There has only been one conviction under Pennsylvania’s current statute. The law’s definition of ‘human trafficking’ is vague, and lacks the teeth needed to effectively prosecute these criminals. They are often charged with other crimes or allowed to plea bargain to lesser charges.”
In 2010, the passage of Greenleaf’s SR 253 directed the Joint State Government Commission, the Legislature’s central research agency, to establish an advisory committee to study the problem of human trafficking. The new legislation contains the recommendations of the advisory committee’s report. Click here to read the report.
According to the report, the National Human Trafficking hotline has seen a steady increase in reporting over the last five years with over 19,000 calls in 2011. The United Nations estimates 2.5 million people worldwide are subject to forced labor or sexual exploitation, including 1.2 million children, while 161 nations are a source, pass-through or destination for trafficking victims.
While human trafficking is a global issue, Pennsylvania is part of the human trafficking network. Pennsylvania is primarily a ‘pass-through state,’ with its interstate highway system, and truck stops, but evidence suggests that victims also originate in the Commonwealth and are brought here to be exploited.
For more information on human trafficking, visit www.polarisproject.org.