Bills intended to crack down on human trafficking are moving in the state House.
Among the measures are bills that would allow experts to testify in human trafficking cases, make a human trafficking conviction an offense that must be considered in child custody disputes and would require that convicted human traffickers register on the state’s Megan’s Law database of sex offenders if their crimes involved sexual servitude.
The Legislature’s moves come as state and national data show that the number of cases of human trafficking reported in Pennsylvania has been increasing dramatically.
In 2015, there were 113 human trafficking cases reported in the state. In 2018, there were 274 and in 2019 there were 271, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888 or text to: 233733).
Only California, Texas, Florida, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia and Washington had more human trafficking cases reported in 2019, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin County, said human trafficking is considered to be the second-largest criminal industry in the world, second only to drug trafficking, according to UNICEF.
Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of using them for forced labor or sexual exploitation.
“The committee moved several House bills onto the full chamber for consideration that would put more teeth into the penalties for those who commit this heinous crime,” said Kauffman. “The number of cases continues to rise and catching these criminals is often quite difficult with victims being too scared, threatened, drug-addicted or manipulated by their traffickers to actively reach out for help.”
State Rep. Craig Williams, R-Delaware County, authored HB 1130, which would add the Megan’s Law requirement.
Before the House judiciary committee voted on the bill, Williams said research has shown the average age of victims when they are forced into sex slavery is 12 and added that cases have been found all over the state.
“We have cases in York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, State College, Erie, Williamsport, Altoona and Allentown and all the major transportation corridors,” he said.