Capitol: Lawmakers work to fight human trafficking

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March 22nd, 2012

Lincoln, NE – Fighting human trafficking was the subject of a bill advanced Wednesday in the Legislature.

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Sen. Brad Ashford says human trafficking in Nebraska is a real problem, particularly in Douglas County. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

You might think of human trafficking as something that takes place far away from Nebraska. But according to state senators debating the topic today, it’s a problem in this state as well. Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford is chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “It is a serious problem I know in Douglas County, in our part of the state,” Ashford said. “And it’s in many cases the young runaway females that become embroiled in the sex trafficking business.”

Omaha Sen. Pete Pirsch, a former prosecutor, said young people become addicted to drugs and get trapped into prostitution. Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege stressed that theme of entrapment.

“Certainly there are individuals that are in the midst of this by their own choosing,” Pirsch said. “They’ve made bad choices. But when I think of human trafficking I think of slave trade…Human trafficking is a form of slavery to many of the young people that are caught it.”

To try and combat it, the bill by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill would increase the penalties for pandering, or pimping. It would require posting signs in rest stops and strip clubs with a hotline number for people caught up in human trafficking to call. And it would establish a task force to study the issue and make recommendations to the Legislature.

The task force would also work with law enforcement on training that, according to the bill, would include the need to treat victims of human trafficking – such as people forced into prostitution — as crime victims rather than criminals. No one spoke against the bill, and it advanced on a vote of 35-0.

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