Local pols push anti-human trafficking bill

Human trafficking isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to crime in Pennsylvania -- but two local politicians are aiming to increase awareness and toughen penalities on human traffickers with proposed legislation this session.

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) and State Rep. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) are among the co-sponsors of SB 75, which aims to prevent trafficking and crack down on offenders. Under the bill, "subjecting an individual to involuntary servitude" would become a first-degree felony; johns who knowlingly have sex with a victim of human trafficking would face second-degree felonies. The bill would also make it a third-degree felony to destroy passports or immigration documents in order to keep a trafficking victim from escaping.

The bill was tabled in the Senate in February, but Greenleaf and Dinniman say they are working to schedule a vote soon.

Comprehensive data on human trafficking can be scanty, according to a report from a state Senate commission convened in 2010, because statistics and information-gathering on the issue often vary between cases and locales. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center's trafficking hotline logged more than 20,000 calls last year; 461 were from Pennsylvania. From those calls, the center identified 93 as potential human trafficking cases.

At a rally in West Chester on April 3, Greenleaf and Dinniman touched on Pennsylvania's anti-slavery history and called human trafficking a form of modern slavery. Their bill, they say, will also focus on preventing human trafficking -- directing proceeds from property seized from human trafficking cases toward investigations and victim services and establishing a council to develop a statewide trafficking prevention plan.

You can read the full text of the bill here.