By Pam Blume
Christian Action League
September 19, 2014
WILMINGTON – The first conviction resulting from the passage of the S 683-Safe Harbor/Victims of Human Trafficking was handed down last week in Wilmington. According to the New Hanover District Attorney’s Office, Drequan Dugar, age 20, plead guilty to human trafficking of a minor and first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He was sentenced to serve two consecutive sentences of 77-154 months and 60-132 months and will spend at least 11 years in prison. He must also register as a sex offender for a minimum of 30 years upon release.
Prosecutors in Wilmington told local media the young girl was located when her mother called the hotline run by A Safe Place, a local outreach center for victims of human trafficking. Workers there were able to locate the victim on a website known for prostitution. They immediately called law enforcement and officers were able to pinpoint the hotel where the victim was being held and arrested Dugar.
According to Assistant District Attorney, Lindsey Roberson, “The victim in this case was fifteen years old. And we don’t want to see a fifteen-year-old charged as a criminal. We want to recognize the fact that at fifteen years old there’s a reason that you can’t drive a car,” she said. “There’s a reason that you can’t consent to sex. And there’s a reason therefore that you can’t consent to commercial sex. So when someone of that age is being sold for sex for profit, we want to make sure that we see them as a victim.”
The Safe Harbor legislation, championed by former Senator Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover), took effect in October 2013 after being passed unanimously by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory. The law not only provides safety from prosecution for minor victims of human trafficking and prostitution, but it also toughens penalties for traffickers, pimps and johns.
The Christian Action League, working with other victims’ advocacy groups, spearheaded the landmark legislation, bringing attention to the issue and promoting passage of the law. Many were stunned to learn North Carolina ranked 8th in the nation for human trafficking.
“This law has been called the first battle in the war against human trafficking in North Carolina. The Christian Action League has been at the heart of addressing this scourge in our state,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, the League’s executive director. “It’s gratifying to know a young woman has been rescued from a life of victimization and the perpetrator of this atrocity will now be appropriately prosecuted. When you see things like this happen, then you understand all the more how strategic our work is. When we say, ‘Jesus saves’ we not only mean He saves the soul, but we also mean our efforts in His name should bring salvation to a young girl trapped in sex trafficking.”
Rev. Creech added the genius of the law is that it does exactly what it was titled, it provides a “safe harbor” for minors caught up in human trafficking and it treats these youth like the victims they really are instead of like criminals. He said, “It takes the focus off the adolescent involved and focuses on the ‘john’ as the real culprit of this scandalous act.”