Reps support bill aimed at fighting human trafficking
A bill recently signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf to address human trafficking of children received the support of area lawmakers.
The legislation, which passed unanimously through both Houses, would require human trafficking offenses to be considered in a party’s bid for child custody.
“Human trafficking is a huge issue. Unfortunately, we are located right on a major artery of it, which is Route 15,” state Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said. “I support anything that will free humans of bondage from other individuals.”
The law, sponsored by state Rep. David Rowe, R-East Buffalo Township, amends Section 5329 of Title 23 to add any offense under Title 18 Chapter 30, related to human trafficking and promoting prostitution of a minor. The two offenses are consistent with numerous violent and serious offenses a court must consider before making a custody decision.
State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township as well as state Reps. Joe Hamm, R-Hepburn Township, and Clint Owlett, R-Wellsboro, were among legislators voting in favor of the bill.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has come out in favor of the measure.
Hamm said support of the bill only makes sense.
“Anytime we can protect children from those who have committed violent crimes or human trafficking crimes, we need to do it,” Hamm said. “We have a roadway (Route 15) that runs through our region that is known for human trafficking.”
Rowe noted that one in seven children reported missing in 2018 were victims of sex trafficking with the average age of those forced into sex slavery being just 12 years old old. In addition, the average life expectancy of a victim is seven years.
“House Bill 843 is a part of a package of bills designed to combat the terrible circumstances human trafficking victims face and protect the most vulnerable among us from this heinous industry,” Rowe said. “I am glad the governor followed suit in our efforts.”