WEST CHESTER (January 18) – State Senator Andy Dinniman recently launched a initiative to combat human trafficking in Pennsylvania and is appealing to interested residents and volunteers to get involved in the movement to tighten the Commonwealth’s human trafficking laws.
“Chester County was very much the center of the abolitionist movement and the center of the underground railroad,” Dinniman said. “Who would have dreamt that more than 150 years after the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment we would be sitting here still talking about the scourge of slavery? Slavery should be in the archives of history and yet, here we sit. It is an astounding dilemma!”
Dinniman’s comments came earlier this week at “Facing the Monster: Slavery Then and Now,” an event at the Chester County Historical Society supporting National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“We have a history as a people. If we are to fully respect that history and the work of those who came before us, including Frederick Douglass, who gave his last public lecture in West Chester and the rich Quaker heritage of our region, we have an obligation to commit ourselves to the end of slavery,” Dinniman said. “I am calling for a new abolitionist movement to take on human trafficking and put an end to slavery.”
The movement will have several goals, including raising awareness of human trafficking and anti-human trafficking resources, encouraging the public to use “fair trade” products and strengthening Pennsylvania’s human trafficking law.
Dinniman is the prime co-sponsor of Senate Bill 75, legislation that would improve and better define Pennsylvania’s human trafficking laws, so that they can be better utilized by law enforcement. The current legal definition of human trafficking is vague, making it difficult to effectively prosecute perpetrators, who are often charged with other crimes and allowed to plea to lesser charges. In addition, victims of human trafficking can face prostitution charges even though they have been forced into the sex trade.
“To effectively fight human trafficking we must give law enforcement personnel the tools they need to bring perpetrators to justice and help victims begin the path to recovery,” Dinniman said. “I am encouraging the public to get involved in a grassroots effort to pass Senate Bill 75 and tighten the law.”
Those interested in supporting Dinniman’s efforts should contact his office in order to receive legislative updates and information on resources and events.
In addition, anyone who suspects that human trafficking may be going on in their area can call the National Human Trafficking Resources Center at 1-888-373-7888 to report tips, connect with anti-trafficking services or request training or technical assistance. Online resources are also available through the Polaris Project at www.polarisproject.org and Dawn’s Place at www.ahomefordawn.com. The Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission’s June 2012 report, “Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania: Policy Recommendations and Proposed Legislation” is available online here.
Last session, the Pennsylvania legislature unanimously passed Act 197 of 2012, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act, which requires travel centers (airports, train and bus stations), as well as certain businesses, like adult clubs; personal service establishments where human contact takes place behind closed doors; and bars and hotels found to be drug-related nuisances by the Pennsylvania State Police, to post a human trafficking hotline poster in a clearly visible area. The law also calls for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to work to provide support services, including housing, health care, child care, substance abuse counseling, career assistance and legal assistance to the victims of human trafficking.
“Due to the covert nature of human trafficking and a lack of awareness, accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, but there is no doubt that modern day slavery is taking place in Pennsylvania and our region,” Dinniman said. “We’ve taken some important steps to crack down on this fast-growing criminal enterprise, but more needs to be done.”
For more information contact Senator Dinniman’s District Office at (610) 692-2112, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org