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NC commission pushes priorities against human trafficking
Report highlights goals for prevention, advocacy
 
Published Wednesday, March 27, 2019 1:00 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

The North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission released a report last month describing goals and priorities in the fight against the practice.

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North Carolina’s fight against human trafficking has a road map.


The North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission, released an executive summary report last month describing current goals and priorities in combating human trafficking. North Carolina’s anti-trafficking laws are some of the nation’s strictest, with stiff criminal penalties such as 10-year sentences for traffickers. The commission’s report, however, pushes for additional legislation to both reduce demand for human trafficking and expand post-conviction and civil relief available to victims.


“We are committed to not only the safety of our citizens but to educating the public about how we plan to combat human trafficking now and going forward,” said Marion Warren, a former District Court judge and director of the North Carolina Administrative Offices of the Courts.


The commission recommended the General Assembly:


• Preserve current offense classifications of human trafficking crimes.


• Expand the definition of “sexual servitude” to apply to all instances of buyer conduct.


• Prohibit promotion or sale of so-called “sex tourism” services.


• Create a civil cause of action for victims to recover damages from individuals who trafficked them or financially benefited from the trafficking activity.


• Expand and streamline the process for human trafficking victims to expunge convictions for nonviolent crimes committed as a direct result of their exploitation.

 

• Expand the grounds for appropriate relief and vacatur of convictions for nonviolent crimes committed by survivors as a direct result of human trafficking.


• Provide the commission with funding to continue future operations.


“It is crucial that we update policies and statutes to help ensure that these vulnerable people are not victimized again,” said Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks. “These recommendations, when implemented, will help further protect human trafficking victims.”


North Carolina is eighth in the nation in terms of trafficking calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline with 895 victims and survivors identified in 2017, the most recent data available. Urban areas like Charlotte with growing populations and affluence are magnets for human trafficking as laborers or the sex trade. Young people – especially minors who lack family structure or are in foster care – are especially vulnerable. People of color – especially African Americans – are particularly at risk of exploitation.


In addition to state lawmakers, members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation have been prominent in crafting federal anti-trafficking bills.
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, co-sponsored the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017 that was signed into law last year by President Donald Trump. The law renews existing programs that make federal resources available to human trafficking survivors and establish new prevention, prosecution and collaboration initiatives to help bring the perpetrators to justice.


North Carolina is one of the top states in fighting human trafficking, earning an “A” rating from Shared Hope International's annual Protected Innocence Challenge in the national fight against human trafficking.


Shared Hope’s grades analyze state laws to protect juvenile sex trafficking survivors and hold buyers and traffickers accountable. North Carolina scored 90, 12 points from the maximum, and has rapidly moved up the ranks since 2011, when the state earned a “D” rating of 61. The state scored a “B” rating in 2017.

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