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Dinniman Discusses New Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking
HARRISBURG (May 11, 2017) – State Senator Andy Dinniman this week joined his legislative colleagues and officials from the Pennsylvania Psychological Association (PPA), PennDOT, and the Pennsylvania State Police to discuss ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking.
“Pennsylvania has taken important steps to end the scourge of human trafficking. But there is more work to be done and we can succeed in doing it and putting an end to this modern-day slave trade by bringing together legislators, social service professionals, and law enforcement as we have done here today,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman’s comments came during a rally in the state capitol rotunda organized by PPA to condemn human trafficking and describe the coordinated efforts taken by multiple agencies and organizations to eradicate it.
According to Krista Bower, executive director of the PPA, human trafficking alone victimizes more than 5 million children worldwide and produces over $150 billion in illegal profits. People are aware of its evil and its size and scope, but “we can and must do more,” she said.
David Rogers, president of the PPA Board of Directors, explained how psychologists are filling a gap for Mandarin-speakers who are victims of human trafficking but have difficulty communicating with authorities due to language barriers. PPA worked together with the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to develop a card that enables officers to ask simple and important questions in Mandarin to help identify potential victims.
Rogers added that PPA also distributes multilingual flyers to publicize the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and PPA is partnering with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association to train staff how to identify potential signs of human trafficking.
Kurt Myers, PennDOT’s Deputy Secretary of Driver and Vehicle Services, said that drivers’ license center employees are being trained to observe signs of human trafficking and trained to report them to proper authorities. According to Myers, 500 field employees and 37 transit center leaders have received significant training in the area. Myers also said that Pennsylvania’s trucker residents, who number over 400,000, are being contacted by PennDOT to help identify and report potential cases of human trafficking.
According to Lt. Harold Rinker of the PSP, human trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing criminal business and will probably soon surpass firearms and narcotics trafficking as the world’s largest criminal business. Rinker described a 2014 case where PSP officers, collaborating with Maryland police, captured a significant figure in human trafficking. With that in mind, Rinker added, the PSP is equally prepared to help victims. “We are only one phone call away,” he said, pleading that victims contact police.
Senator Dinniman was a driving force in passing Act 105 of 2014 (Senate Bill 75), which improves and better defines Pennsylvania’s human trafficking laws so that they can be better utilized by law enforcement. The law gave Pennsylvania its first comprehensive legal definition of human trafficking and provided other tools to combat the crime. It also strengthened protections for victims both during any subsequent court processes and afterward in the form of civil action against their traffickers.
Currently, Dinniman is a supporter and co-sponsor of Senate Bill 554, which aims to protect juvenile victims of human trafficking from potential prosecution. That bill requires that police officers be trained to identify and assist sexually exploited children and calls for sexually exploited children to be diverted from the criminal justice system to more appropriate human services. It also directs the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to develop and implement a statewide protocol to deliver safe and stable housing, education and life-skills training, and counseling to the children who have been exploited. Senate Bill 554 unanimously passed the Senate in April and is now in the House Judiciary Committee.
“We have a duty and a moral obligation not only to give law enforcement personnel the tools they need to bring human traffickers to justice but also to help victims begin and stay on the path to recovery,” Dinniman said.
Dinniman also thanked the bill’s prime sponsor, Senator Stewart Greenleaf, who serves as majority chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for his longstanding and bipartisan work in the battle against human trafficking.
“My Senate District in Chester County has a history as the center of the abolitionist movement and the underground railroad dating back more than 150 years. Today, we are again the center of a new abolitionist movement – one to put an end to human trafficking in all its forms, be it the sex trade or forced labor,” Dinniman said. “And I want to thank Senator Greenleaf, as well as all those individuals, groups, churches and organizations, like the Chester County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition, for continuing to stand for the Quaker tradition in Pennsylvania.”