Weekly column written for members of the Arkansas House of Representatives:
Since the beginning of this year law enforcement officers in Arkansas have investigated 24 reports of human trafficking. Four individuals have been arrested and charged.
And last year, 33 complaints were investigated and 6 individuals were arrested. In one operation, two juvenile victims of human trafficking were recovered.
A report released last week by the Arkansas Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking also revealed that 80 percent of law enforcement agencies agree that human trafficking is on the rise.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. Victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of labor or services.
The 89th General Assembly passed several laws that strengthened our efforts to combat human trafficking. We increased sentencing terms and passed outreach measures so that victims know who they can call for help in our state at any given time.
And to know what further measures we should be taking, we created the State Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking. The 40 member task force appointed by the Attorney General has been meeting every other month for the past 9 months.
It presented findings and recommendations to the Judiciary Committee last week. The task force has made 19 recommendations. Included in the recommendations is the establishment of a pilot program for a court-approved educational course to educate those charged with soliciting the services of a prostitute. It also supports legislation to add human trafficking convictions to those requiring registration as a sex offender.
Other recommendations include posting a hotline number at all rest stops, state parks, and schools with grades 6-12. This is an extension of legislation already passed which requires the hotline number to be posted at sexually oriented businesses and truck stops.
We have posted the entire report to our website www.arkansashouse.org>.
The 90th General Assembly will be charged with the task of introducing any legislation recommended in the report.
In the meantime, if you suspect a case a human trafficking please call 1-888-373-7888.