For many Pennsylvania residents the thought regarding Human Trafficking is that it doesn’t happen here or that it only happens to foreign nationals that have illegally entered into the United States or that Human Trafficking is a “big city” problem. Referencing the April 5th “prostitution bust” of the White Rose Spa, located at 150 S. Duke Street in York, one can easily access that the aforementioned are huge misconceptions about Human Trafficking.
Pennsylvania 2010 Advocate’s Brief Anti-Human Trafficking Legislation produced by the Polaris Project shares some sobering facts.
In addition to the commercial front businesses such as massage parlors, nail salons, agricultural operations, and hotels or motels that human traffickers utilize, Pennsylvania is also a “pass through” state due to the many interstate highways that connect major trafficking hotspots in Ohio, New Jersey, and New York. Furthermore, the I-95 corridor is utilized to move victims along the Eastern Seaboard from New York to Maryland, Washington, D.C., Georgia and Florida. Many truck stops, especially those along the “Miracle Mile” are known for playing host to sex trafficking.
In 2006 the Pennsylvania legislature made human trafficking a second-degree felony, unless the perpetrator injures the victim or the victim is under 18, in which case it is a first-degree felony. In addition, traffickers will face forfeiture of any assets associated with the crime potentially providing the state with tens of thousands of dollars. However, since enactment, the state has yet to utilize the law. This is likely due to:
- A common misconception that only the federal government can take effective action in cases of Human Trafficking, when in truth, more often it is local and state law enforcement and victim service providers who come into direct contact with it.
- Victims of trafficking are usually kept isolated from society and are often seen as prostitutes who choose to be “in the life” or as “illegals” whom society may disregard.
- Lack of knowledge or training of law enforcement and community members on how to identify and respond to human trafficking cases.
- A lack of coordination between law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service providers and the public on Human Trafficking cases, training, action plans, and victim resources; and no centralized venue to convey information on responding to the crime of human trafficking.
Logic deems that if Pennsylvania introduced Human Trafficking laws five years ago, Human Trafficking was occurring in our state long before then and although the report states that Pennsylvania has yet to utilize laws it also points to the roadblocks. Fortunately, several citizens in public office have stepped forward to bust the roadblocks. Senators Daylin Leach, Pat Vance, and Stewart Greenleaf, Representatives Brian Ellis and Katie True, have all worked toward implementing actions to overcome the current problems.
A brief description of what’s on the table is:
- Proposed change to very simple but extremely important language in the current PA Human Trafficking law. As it currently reads, “trafficking for labor or services” and does not spell out “trafficking for commercial sex”.
- The removal of prostitution convictions from a victim’s record.
- Mandatory posting of the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-3737-888). The NHTRC hotline would be strategically posted in truck stops, bus stations, rest stops, and known sex or labor trafficking venues such as hotels/motels, strip clubs, and agricultural facilities.
- Creation of the PA State Human Trafficking Task Force / Advisory Committee: This important resolution will establish the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Advisory Committee, consisting of key personnel, organizations and agencies to develop and implement a plan to end trafficking in Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately none of this is going to happen without our help. Contacting your legislators in person, by phone and by email is the best way to ensure that human trafficking is recognized as a serious crime and that legislators take steps to address it.
- Determine who your legislators are by going to: www.legis.state.pa.us, and enter your zip code in the far right box.
- Please call your legislators (you will likely talk to a staff member) and urge them to cosponsor the Anti-Human Trafficking legislation above. Note that there will not be a number for the bill until after it is introduced. Here is an example of what you can say, but please personalize your message: “Hi, my name is [ ], and I am a constituent of [ ]. I am calling to urge [ ] to cosponsor legislation to help end human trafficking in Pennsylvania. The first requires posting of the National Human Trafficking Hotline by certain establishments, and the second is a resolution to establish the Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Advisory Committee. Will the Senator/Representative support and cosponsor this important legislation?”
- If your legislators would like more information or wish to cosponsor, ask them to contact the sponsors (Hotline Bill: Senator Leach or Vance; Task Force Bill: Senator Greenleaf or Representative True).
- After you make your call, please follow up with a short email to thank them for their time and restate your message of what you would like them to do.
- Lastly, please urge everyone you know to make the same call!
Sources: The Polaris Project, wcmontco.org
To receive notifications when new articles are published via email, click the “Subscribe” button at the top or bottom of this article. You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook! To contact this writer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.