WHEN it comes to combating sex trafficking, the state Legislature is right to employ the power of state laws to go after pimps and help victims.
The House and Senate have passed bills that would target predators ofchildren trafficked on the Internet, train school employees about child sexual abuse and exploitation and provide additional resources to local law enforcement.
Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, represents a district that has the highest rate of child trafficking in the United States. Her approach with two bills is a smart mix of consequences for those buying sex and help for the young girls forced into prostitution.
Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1291 directs fees collected by the state from cars impounded during prostitution-related arrests to local law-enforcement agencies to help pay for anti-sex-trafficking efforts and victim-support services. State law allows vehicles to be impounded if they were used in the commission of a crime and the person arrested is the legal owner.
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Orwall’s second bill, Substitute House Bill 1292, would help victims who leave the sex trade rebuild their lives by allowing them to petition a judge to clear their criminal records of convictions related to sex trafficking.
The average age of girls coerced into the sex industry is 13, according to law-enforcement leaders who testified before the House Public Safety Committee. Efforts to turn their lives around can be stymied by a criminal record.
Bills from the Senate toughen criminal penalties for traffickers buying online sex ads involving minors and expands the definition of sex-trafficking crimes to include trafficking of a minor, even if force, fraud or coercion is not shown.
Law-enforcement leaders support these measures. Among those testifying in favor of Rep. Orwall’s bills was SeaTac Police Chief James Graddon, a former commander of the task force on the Green River serial killer. He has direct, grim knowledge of the victimization of young girls forced into the sex trade.
These bills are critical to combating sex trafficking. They’ve been tweaked and now have bipartisan support. They should be passed and sent to Gov. Jay Inslee.