Saturday, February 23, 2013 12:08 AM
Lawmakers target sex trafficking
Newton backs bill to add human trafficking convicts to sex offender registry
By Corey Friedman | Times Online Editor
They smuggle sex slaves into North Carolina and profit from forced prostitution, but you won’t find their names and arrest photos on the state sex offender registry.
A bill filed this week in the North Carolina Senate would close that loophole, designating those convicted of human trafficking as sex offenders and subjecting them to the same monitoring requirements as rapists and child molesters.
State Sen. Buck Newton, a Wilson Republican, signed on with Sens. Thom Goolsby and Stan Bingham as Senate Bill 122’s primary sponsors.
"To our shame, North Carolina is one of the top 10 states for sex trafficking,” Goolsby said in a statement. "I was shocked when I learned that one in four runaways are involved in sex trafficking within 48 hours of being on the streets. The war on sex trafficking has begun. For the sake of our children, we will win this war.”
Goolsby said convicted sex traffickers will be required to report their addresses to law enforcement upon their release from prison and will be required to wear monitoring bracelets that use global positioning system satellites to track their movements.
"The safeguards in this proposed law will effectively put them out of the sex trafficking business,” he said.
Bingham said Goolsby asked him to sponsor the bill after Bingham told him that his daughter, a Raleigh attorney, had attended a class about international sex trafficking in San Francisco.
"It’s a terrible, terrible thing,” said Bingham, a Denton Republican. "I’ve got four daughters, and because of that, I have a keen interest in this.”
An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people are smuggled into the United States for sex slavery and forced labor each year, according to State Department reports. Women and children are made to work in brothels, escort services and strip clubs.
"Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry,” the Washington-based Polaris Project states on its website.
SB 122 isn’t a complex piece of legislation. It seeks to add three lines — 34 words — to the definition of a sexually violent offense, which requires registration as a sex offender in North Carolina.
Those convicted of human trafficking would be designated as sex offenders if the offense is committed against someone under 18 or against an adult who is subjected to sexual servitude, according to the bill.
Current laws require offenders to register with their county sheriff’s office if they’re convicted of rape, sexual offense, sexual battery, statutory rape, incest, felonious indecent exposure, sexual exploitation of a minor, promoting prostitution of a minor or taking indecent liberties with a minor.
Wilson County has 132 registered sex offenders, according to the state registry. Nash County has 126, Edgecombe has 149, Johnston has 203, Wayne has 174, Greene has 29 and Pitt has 230.
Goolsby said he and fellow lawmakers are drafting a comprehensive "safe harbor” bill to protect sex trafficking victims and curtail the practice in North Carolina.
"This bill begins the opening salvos in North Carolina’s war on sex traffickers,” Goolsby said in a statement announcing SB 122’s filing.
The bill is likely to receive broad support from law enforcement and public policy groups, but the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association had not taken a position on the legislation Friday.
"Human trafficking is a heinous offense, and it’s a policy question for the legislature as to whether they feel like persons convicted of that offense should go on the sex offender registry,” said Eddie Caldwell, the sheriffs’ association’s executive vice president and general counsel. "We’ll follow their lead.”
Three Democratic state senators joined 20 Republicans who signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, which was introduced Wednesday and referred to the Judiciary I committee.
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©The Wilson Times, Wilson, North Carolina.
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