After a church-sponsored presentation here on child sex trafficking last Spring, one person in the audience asked the panel, “What can we do about this?” The panelist answered, “Just be aware.”
That doesn’t help. Telling us the world is a mess and there’s nothing we can do about it doesn’t help. But there are things we can do about it.
Nevadans for the Common Good has already been instrumental in combatting child sex trafficking as we have worked with schools, law enforcement, and social services. We are positioning ourselves to do a great deal more. Human trafficking is a large, complex problem, a tangled evil. There is not a single silver bullet solution. We cannot solve this problem through legislation alone. But we cannot effectively combat it without legislation.
We have advocated for legislative reforms in the past. We have won some and lost some. But now we have the Big Battle. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto will present an Omnibus Human Trafficking Bill (currently, BDR 403) to the next legislative session.
Here’s what that Bill will do:
1. Broaden the definition of the criminal conduct to include all aspects of pimp activity – recruiting, harboring, soliciting, etc. At present many aspects of the pimping process are not criminal. This bill will allow proof of any one aspect of the process to result in a conviction.
2. Remove the violence requirement for those who traffic children. While violence and coercion would still be an element in the charge of trafficking adults, children are more likely to be enticed and manipulated into prostitution. This statute would remove the violence requirement in cases against child sex traffickers.
3. For each of the crimes covered, the penalties would be increased by one felony level. In the case of a child sex trafficker, the penalty would go from 1-5 years with the possibility (in fact the likelihood) of probation to 3-20 years with no probation.
4. The law would apply criminal penalties to Johns (customers) so as to attack the problem from the demand side.
5. Provide specific authorization of wiretaps based on probable cause to suspect human trafficking is being conducted via telephone.
6. Apply racketeering, conspiracy, and gang enhancement penalties to human trafficking.
7. Add human traffickers to the sex offender registry. (In my opinion, this is one of the most important and potentially effective parts of this bill in actually preventing human trafficking of children.)
8. Strengthen the existing (new) provisions allowing law enforcement to seize the trafficker’s assets that are the fruits of illegal activities.
9. Use the proceeds from seized assets to provide restitution to the victims of human trafficking.
10. Create a civil cause of action so that a victim of human trafficking can sue the trafficker for money damages.
11. Give the state the right to a preliminary hearing. This can preserve the testimony of trafficking victims who often disappear or become unavailable before trial resulting in dismissal of the charges.
12. Extend the statute of limitations on rape charges arising out of child sex trafficking.
This is not about the legalized and regulated prostitution in some rural Nevada counties. There are arguments for and against that. But this legislation is about a very different situation. This is about the coercion of adults and the manipulation of children into the illegal sex trade.
Our task now is to persuade legislators to pass this Bill. Do you think it is a slam-dunk? Think again. Bills increasing the penalties for child sex trafficking have repeatedly been defeated in our State Assembly. They don’t even make it out of committee. Human trafficking is a highly lucrative business. Passing this legislation will require a concerted effort by the faith community.
So, let’s get organized! Nevadans for the Common Good will have a strategy session on how we can pass this bill:
Thursday, Nov. 29
Zion United Methodist Church
2108 Revere St.
North Las Vegas
North Las Vegas
We need 5 or 6 people from each Episcopal Church (2 or 3 from the smaller ones), and each Church, Synagogue, Mosque, or non-profit organization that is working with Nevadans for the Common Good.
This Bill will not solve the problem. But it is a huge first step. See you at Zion UMC on Nov. 29.