New human trafficking law already bringing more cases to light in Kentucky

12/12/2013 11:52 AM

A law that took effect in June to crack down on human trafficking in Kentucky already has helped law enforcement and victims groups identify nearly twice as many cases in its first four months than the 11 cases prosecuted during previous six years combined.

Kentucky’s interstate highway system along with high profile sporting events like the Kentucky Derby have made the state part of the human trafficking pipeline. But before the new law passed this spring, just 11 cases had been identified and prosecuted since 2007.

In the nearly four-months since the Human Trafficking Victim Rights Act went into effect, 20 cases have been identified thanks to heightened reporting requirements, according to a report released by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

On Thursday, at the Ending Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Conference in Lexington, the sponsor of the new human trafficking law, Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, said the new law not only has helped raise awareness by providing training to law enforcement but has also increased protections for victims to get them help rather than land them in jail.

Trafficking is defined as exploiting people for labor or commercial sex acts with control over victim through force, fraud or coercion. Marissa Castellanos of Catholic Charities of Louisville said it is estimated to be $32 billion global business.

A 2007 Kentucky law first set the right to not be imprisoned for underlying offenses related to trafficking. However, advocates found that law wasn’t being followed and often victims were being prosecuted for crimes related to prostitution even if it was against their will.

In Kentucky, a total of 151 victims of human trafficking have been identified since 2008. Nearly half of all victims in Kentucky were trafficked as minors with nearly 80 percent female. Those statistics mirror what’s happening nationwide.

In the United States, the highest risk group are runaway teenagers with one in three teens lured into prostitution during the first 48 hours of leaving home, according to a 2008 study of national incidence.

Overly said Kentucky’s interstate highway systems including I-65 have been identified as a major pipeline for trafficking.

The legislation also created a special victims fund paid for with assets seized from those convicted of the crime. The assets seized are divided up between several agencies and the victims fund:

  • - 50 percent of assets seized go into a victims fund
    - 42.5 percent to the participating law enforcement agency
    - 7.5 percent to the Office of Attorney General


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