By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
August 23, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tar Heel lawmakers’ efforts to make the state less attractive to sex traffickers are scoring points with the Polaris Project, which announced improved ratings on human trafficking laws in North Carolina and 38 other states.
Named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, the Polaris Project advocates for legislation to combat sex and labor trafficking and support survivors and tracks states’ progress in 10 categories with its annual rankings. This year’s report shows 39 states passed anti-trafficking laws, and 32, including North Carolina, are considered in the Tier 1 category, where only 21 states landed last year.
“We’re glad to see these numbers go up, thanks to the hard work of lawmakers, victims’ services organizations and others,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “Now we look forward to seeing the numbers of trafficking victims go down as new laws take effect.”
There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization, including hundreds of thousands in the United States.
Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project, said the legal battle against modern day slavery is gaining momentum, especially since all 50 states have passed laws criminalizing human trafficking. But he added, “in every state, we need to give prosecutors and law enforcement the right tools to stop traffickers, and state agencies must have the ability to protect survivors and help them reclaim their freedom.”
To encourage states to provide those tools, Polaris Project assigns points for 10 categories of laws that deal with everything from training for law enforcement to victim assistance. Based on their legal landscape, states are labeled Tier 1, 2, 3 or 4.
North Carolina moved from Tier 2 in 2011 with only about half of 10 conditions met, to Tier 1 in 2012, but still lacked making the grade in four categories.
After passing two significant bills this year — S 122, which places those convicted of trafficking on the sex offender registration; and S 683, which offers immunity for minors forced into prostitution, toughens penalties for traffickers, pimps and johns, and helps victims receive services — the state went from 8 points to 10 points and now only lacks two criteria: the posting of a Human Trafficking Hotline and a statute that gives trafficking victims the ability to seek civil damages from their perpetrators.
The N.C. House passed H 855 this year, which would have required the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a hotline for reporting suspected trafficking, but the bill never came up in the Senate. However, it may be considered during the 2013-2014 short session.
“With just two more criteria to meet, North Carolina should set its sights on that perfect score to help provide law enforcement with what they need to shut these traffickers down and to help give victims what they need to start a new life,” Dr. Creech said. “The issue of human trafficking is a high priority at the Christian Action League. We look forward to continuing these efforts.”
While Arkansas, Wyoming, Mississippi and New Jersey were recognized by Polaris Project as most improved this year, only New Jersey and Washington have laws fulfilling all 10 categories. Eleven states were ranked Tier 2; six, Tier 3; and only one, South Dakota, Tier 4.
To read more about Polaris Project and the state ratings, log onto http://www.polarisproject.org/