SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate panel supported a bill Monday that would streamline the prosecution of child trafficking.
The Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted 5-0 to favorably recommend HB252 to the full Senate.
Bill sponsor House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said the bill would eliminate a requirement in state law that prosecutors must prove fraud or coercion for a conviction of human trafficking of a child, which is a first-degree felony.
King said the average age of minors involved in human trafficking cases is 12 to 14 years old.
“That’s the average age,” he said. “Think about how many kids are younger than that. We need to do something.”
Human traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, with roughly 2 million victims who are children and 1.5 million victims in North America, said Attorney General Sean Reyes. Human trafficking is now “the second most lucrative criminal enterprise,” behind only drug trafficking, he said.
“Human traffickers perceive there to be very little risk or deterrence to affect their criminal operations,” Reyes added. “While investigations, prosecutions and penalties have increased throughout recent years, many traffickers still believe the high profit margin to be worth the risk of detection.”
Additionally, human traffickers perceive a low risk of prosecution due to lack of government and law enforcement training, low community awareness, ineffective or unused laws, lack of investigation, scarce resources for victim recovery services, and social blaming of victims, Reyes said.
Regardless of growing awareness of the crime, human trafficking continues to go unreported due to its “covert nature, misconception about its definition, and lack of awareness of its indicators,” he said.
“In supporting this particular bill, we demonstrate our resolve in a very nonpartisan way to protect those most vulnerable among us in our community,” Reyes said.
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