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State Legislature dedicated to ending human trafficking: Tom Mehaffie

Posted 2/19/20

In 2014, the Legislature created the first comprehensive definition of human trafficking and provided tools to combat the crime.

It strengthened protections for victims during court proceedings, …

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State Legislature dedicated to ending human trafficking: Tom Mehaffie

Posted

In 2014, the Legislature created the first comprehensive definition of human trafficking and provided tools to combat the crime.

It strengthened protections for victims during court proceedings, including those initiated against their traffickers in civil court.

Human trafficking harms children and adults from all demographics. Human traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to abuse their victims, whether through sexual exploitation, domestic servitude or forced marriage.

State laws that we pass can have a significant impact on human trafficking and ensuring that perpetrators are caught and punished severely.

In January, the House advanced landmark bills to combat human trafficking. Those bills included initiatives to increase penalties for anyone knowingly patronizing a victim of human trafficking and anyone connected to trafficking victims. Other bills would assist victims and aim to increase resources and protections for them.

To further draw attention to the problem, the House approved a resolution to recognize January 2020 as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 60 passed the House and Senate, and was signed into law by the governor, becoming Act 1 of 2020. It shifts the focus of state law from punishing the victims of trafficking to punishing those who traffic individuals and those who would buy sex from them.

Act 1 brings the state crimes code in line with federal law. It also doubles the amount of maximum jail time that an individual may serve for trafficking or patronizing a victim of trafficking.

We all need to be aware that human trafficking is happening, particularly along major thoroughfares such as Interstate 83 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Watch for people who seem disconnected from their friends and family, those who have undergone a dramatic change in behavior, and those who are in the company of someone who seems to be in control of where they go and with whom they talk.

It is estimated that human trafficking is a $150 billion industry with more than 40 million victims around the world. I pledge to do all I can to help these victims and bring an end to this devastating crime.

State Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, represents the 106th House District. Reach him at 717-534-1323 or tmehaffie@pahousegop.com.