L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
March 1, 2013
RALEIGH – “We are now one step closer to removing our state from the top 10 list for sex trafficking. Our goal is to put sex traffickers — ‘pimps’ for lack of a better word — out of business in North Carolina,” Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover) said Thursday. “The first battle of the war has been won.”
He was referring to Senate Bill 122, Sex Trafficking/Sex Offender Registration, which won a favorable recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee and is headed to the Senate floor. The bill would add the names of convicted traffickers to the sex offender registry.
“The bill defines anyone who traffics minors as a sex offender, so that’s important that the general public realize minors can’t make the choice to be prostitutes,” Goolsby explained. “They’re forced or coerced into it by pimps, even if they ran away by choice. The bill raises the standard for adults that they must have been in sexual servitude for the offender to qualify as a sex offender.”
In addition to having their names on the list, which is public record, sex offenders must check in with authorities at least twice a year, notify the court system if they move, and they cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare. Beginning in 2007 they are also subject to an electronic tracking system.
Sen. Goolsby said some lawmakers had raised questions “about the GPS monitoring for those convicted and their right to privacy,” but that he has not heard of any opposition to his bill and that response from coalitions active on the issue of human trafficking has been positive.
In the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, Senators Dan Blue (D-Wake), Dan Soucek (R-Alleghany) and Martin Nesbit (D-Buncombe) addressed concerns that the bill would place people on the sex offender registry whose crimes were not sex related. But legislative legal staff explained that the registry already includes perpetrators of many crimes against minors that are not necessarily sex crimes, and that some are included to be in compliance with federal law.
Goolsby said he understood those concerns and that he would be open to the idea of starting a separate but similar registry in the future. However, he said for now, he believed the crime of trafficking should land violators on the existing registry.
“If someone enslaves another human being, we want those people to be registered,” he said.
Tami Fitzgerald with the North Carolina Values Coalition told the committee that putting human traffickers on the sex registry would help deter the crime.
“Having attended a training seminar last week with the Conference of District Attorneys, … what I learned is that most people who do trafficking with minors are doing it with an aim to do it for sex trafficking eventually,” she said. “It may start as domestic servitude, but it eventually ends up being sex trafficking.”
In a YouTube video recorded after the committee meeting, Sen. Goolsby said, “This is a situation that plagues our state. We are actually number 8 in the top 10 states for sex trafficking.”
He said sex traffickers or “pimps” take “primarily young women, sometimes and many times underage women, girls, if you will, and put them into the sex trade.”
“It is awful, it is reprehensible. And it is something we have to stop. The first step is making these guys into registered sex offenders,” he added. “I’m happy we got it out of Judiciary I today — bipartisan, unanimous support. It will be going to the Senate very soon and then on to the House.”
“Pay attention, the war is under way!” he declared.
In an earlier interview, Sen. Goolsby said he also hopes to file a “Safe Harbor” bill that would designate that minors cannot be charged with prostitution.
“That allows law enforcement to focus on traffickers, rather than prosecuting victims of abuse,” he said.
Stop Human Trafficking Now said North Carolina should be a Safe Harbor for minors who are victims of sex trafficking and that laws that treat them as victims help remove the stigma of prostitution and assist them in receiving needed services.
“We were pleased to see this bill progress and look forward to more legislation that will help to abolish this modern day slavery in North Carolina,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
This week, North Carolina Now, a broadcast on WUNC television interviewed Senator Thom Goolsby about Senate Bill 122. It’s well worth the 7 minutes that it takes to view it. You can watch that interview by clicking here.