December 22, 2009

Wyden and Cornyn Launch Effort to Help Victims of Sex Trafficking

Legislation provides comprehensive plan to help law enforcement and victims

Washington, D.C. - Reaching out to help the neglected victims of sex trafficking and crack down on their abusers, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced legislation today that would take a comprehensive approach to shutting down human sex trafficking. The Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2009 includes provisions to set up block grant pilot projects in six states that would establish shelters for victims and provide treatment, counseling and legal aid, while also giving law enforcement the tools to crack down on pimps.

"It's time we started rescuing the victims of sex trafficking and imprisoning those who profit from human slavery," said Wyden. "The federal government has a responsibility to catch and prosecute modern-day slave owners, and providing a realistic way out for their victims will help achieve that end."

"Our nation must remain committed to ending the scourge of human trafficking. This legislation will provide valuable assistance to state and local governments on the front lines of battling organized criminal syndicates and violent gangs that traffic humans for labor and sex," said Cornyn. "I am proud to partner with Senator Wyden on this important bipartisan effort."

Block grant locations would be chosen by how they rate on criteria such as the presence of significant sex trafficking activity; demonstrated participation by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and social service providers; and a workable plan to provide comprehensive, wrap-around services to human trafficking victims, including the establishment of a shelter facility.

Each block grant would be funded at $2.5 million per year and could be renewed for two additional years. Items to be funded by the block grants would include:

· A shelter for trafficking victims;

· Clothing and other daily needs in order to keep victims from returning to the street;

· Victims' assistance counseling and legal services;

· Education or job training classes for victims;

· Specialized training for law enforcement and social service providers;

· Police officer salaries - patrol officers, detectives, investigators;

· Prosecutor salaries, and other trial expenses;

· Investigation expenses - wire taps, expert consultants, travel, other "technical assistance" expenditures; and

· Outreach, education, and prevention efforts, including programs to deter offenders.

The bill would also help boost prompt reporting of information on missing and abducted children to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and provide funding to improve the NCIC missing children database. More timely reporting would help law enforcement identify repeat runaways, who are statistically proven to be more likely to be lured into prostitution.