(Host) The Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony on Thursday on the problem of human trafficking — the practice of coercing people into various kinds of involuntary labor.
Committee Chairman Dick Sears:
(Sears) "Things like servitude. When we think of trafficking, we normally think of things like sexual trafficking, but this is much more comprehensive."
(Host) Sears is co-sponsor of a bill that would establish a comprehensive system of criminal penalties, prevention programs, and services for victims of human trafficking.
Forty-five states have laws specifically addressing human trafficking, but Vermont is not among them.
Sears says the federal government can prosecute these crimes, but he says it’s important to give state law enforcement the ability to step in as well:
(Sears) "The federal government only deals, usually, with the high end of the crime. In other words, they’re interested in who’s organizing on a national level or on a regional level. And they may bypass the actors who are involved in it on a state level. And for that reason, I think we need some state laws to protect us wherever there are voids in state law."
(Host) Sears says the scope of the problem in Vermont isn’t clear, but he points to high profile cases like teenager Crystal Jones, who was lured into prostitution in New York City and murdered in 2001, and also the bust of a massage parlor in Colchester in 2004 that was involved in sex trafficking.