Lawmakers looking to crack down on human trafficking in Missouri
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Lawmakers looking to crack down on human trafficking in Missouri

Date: December 1, 2015
By: Melissa Zygowicz
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A House committee is considering to crack down on human trafficking in Missouri.

The House Trafficking Committee said human trafficking is an under addressed problem in Missouri. St. Louis is ranked as one of the top 20 trafficking cities in the U.S by the F.B.I.

Areas along Interstate 70 and 44 that have a high level of transportation see a larger prevalence of trafficking.

The Chair of the House Trafficking Committee and State Rep. 134 Elijah Haahr said the issue of human trafficking is an area the state government has not focused on in past years.

"Other issues like education and crime, those problems have risen up and the trafficking issue took to the back burner. Now what we're trying to do is get caught up and find the areas that are weak and find what other states are doing to combat the issue to make sure we can get it back in the forefront," Haahr said.

The committees proposal would put a stop to advertising of human traffickers.  It is not illegal to advertise victims of human trafficking in Missouri.

Trafficking a victim is a felony crime.

Haahr said part of the rise of human trafficking in the Midwest is due to the rise of the Internet. Anonymous apps and websites have made it easier to traffic victims.

Haahr wants to see the government put a stop to these advertisements through the committee's legislation.

"I filed this legislation last spring. It wasn't able to get through the Senate due to the shut down. So, I think this is something that should move through the senate very quickly next year," Haahr said.

Haahr also said the committee will also be filing a budget request in attempt to coordinate governmental and non-governmental groups on training for law enforcement and prosecutors. The training will help clarify what human trafficking is and how to tell when it's happening.

There is no universal definition for human trafficking. The federal and state government have different definitions of human trafficking.

The federal definition of human trafficking includes prostitution, slavery and forced labor.

The committee hopes to have their considerations met by January 2017.




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