HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania is long overdue when it comes to stepping up its effort to combat human trafficking, according to state Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-Dauphin).
“It has been 14 years since Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code was amended to reflect the increase in cases of human trafficking,” said Lewis. “Since that time, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received approximately 3,700 human trafficking-related calls from Pennsylvania alone, including more than 300 last year.”
On Tuesday, Lewis and his fellow House Judiciary Committee members unanimously passed an eight-piece package of legislation designed to update various aspects of Pennsylvania law regarding a crime that has tragically become a $150 billion industry worldwide.
“Thinking human trafficking is strictly a big-city problem is a mistake,” Lewis added. “Trafficking cases have been reported in areas such as York, Lancaster and Harrisburg, with the average age of a victim of sex trafficking or sex slavery being between 12-14 years old.”
Here is a brief synopsis of the bills Lewis and the committee advanced:
• House Bill 161
– Would increase the grading of a conviction for dealing in infant children from a misdemeanor of the first degree to a felony of the first degree.
• House Bill 2174
– Would prohibit defendants from introducing evidence of a human trafficking victim’s past sexual victimization and allegations of past sexual victimization in any prosecution.
• House Bill 2175
– Would expand the list of sexual offenses to which an expert may testify in sexual assault cases.
• House Bill 2176
– Would expand the list of prohibited activities that constitute the crime of unlawful contact with a minor.
• House Bill 2177
– Would expand the list of sexual offenses for which inmates must undergo sex offender counseling.
• House Bill 2178
– Would require a court to consider whether an individual has been convicted of human trafficking prior to awarding child custody to that party.
• Senate Bill 60
– Would increase penalties relating to human trafficking and funding for programs/services for trafficking victims, as well as expand witness testimony protections for trafficked minors.
• House Resolution 618
- Would designate January 2020, as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.”
Questions about this or any legislative issue should be directed to Lewis’ district office at 717-652-3721.
Representative Andrew Lewis
105th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Scott Little