Human trafficking report urges new state laws

10:38 AM, Nov 7, 2013   |    comments
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Pamphlets hope to educate readers about the dangers posed by sex trafficking.

LANSING, Mich. -- A 13 On Your Side Investigation is leading to change, and new laws protecting victims of sex trafficking.

In May WZZM 13's Sarah Barwacz's reporter revealed a hidden problem in West Michigan and brought the findings to the State Attorney General. Wednesday he launched a new effort to fight the problem.

After that report, the Michigan's Human Trafficking Commission investigated the problem, wrote a report recommending 11 new pieces of legislation.

WZZM 13 News first hit Grand Rapids streets with advocate Leslie King and uncovered multiple cases of sex trafficking. King herself was a sex trafficking victim in West Michigan for years.

"I've been shot, I've been stabbed, and beaten. I was seen as a 15 year old prostitute not a 15 year old prostituted child."

We brought our findings to Attorney General Bill Schuette in hopes of change. After a six month FBI investigation, Schuette is now recommending 11 new laws. Including a safe harbor law, so minors won't be charged as prostitutes.

Schuette says, "If you're 15 years old and you're forced to have sex you're a victim not a criminal."

Also proposed, taking pimps assets and charging them with a felony, under the current law it's a misdemeanor.

Attorney General, Schuette says, "Strengthen penalties of existing laws to send a message out there to the Johns, that it's going to be a five year penalty."

For King, it's a big step in the right direction.

"I've been heard, I've been heard, after all these years of fighting, I've finally been heard."

And other victims will now have a voice too.

Schuette says he plans for police departments to go through training to recognize sex trafficking when it happens.



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