Today, advocates and fellow legislators joined State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R, 12) for a rally at the State Capitol calling for the passage of the Senator’s SB 554 to protect the child victims of human trafficking from criminal prosecution. The legislation, known as Safe Harbor, passed the Senate unanimously in April of 2017.
This morning, prior to the rally, the House Judiciary Committee approved SB 554. The legislation may now be considered by the full House. Throughout the day, advocates will meet with House members asking for their support and swift action.
“Thousands of children are coerced into sexual servitude each year, and have been charged with crimes such as prostitution and drug trafficking,” said Senator Greenleaf. “The Safe Harbor bill would divert exploited children from the criminal justice system, and recognize them as victims of human trafficking, not criminals. There is no such thing as a child prostitute—they are children, not legally capable of such consent. Now is the time to prevent the child victims of this heinous crime from gaining a criminal record and being unjustly punishment while the real criminals go free.”
The legislation will require law enforcement to report any encounter with a minor who has been subject to sexual exploitation. The legislation will provide safe, long-term housing, education, life-skills training, and counseling to the children who have been exploited.
Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise, second only to the drug trade. Between 100,000 and 300,000 children are commercially exploited in the United States each year. Over 273 human trafficking cases have been reported in Pennsylvania since 2016.
Nationally, as many as 2.4 million children run away from home each year, with 1 out of every 3 homeless teens being lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. Statistically, this means at least 800,000 runaway children will be lured into commercial sexual exploitation each year. The average age at which a child first becomes commercially victimized is twelve years old.
In 2014, Senator Greenleaf’s SB 75 was signed into law which enabled law enforcement to better target human traffickers. SB 75 also increased the criminal penalties for human trafficking.
At least 34 states have already passed a Safe Harbor law.
Contact: Aaron Zappia (215) 657-7700