Law to increase penalties for human trafficking

Posted By: Megan Conway

Legislative bill 294 proposed by Sen. Jim Scheer from Norfolk would change the way human trafficking is penalized in Nebraska. 

It’d increase the consequences for consumers. Also, if passed, victims of the crime could be detained in juvenile centers, but only until the services they need are decided on. The current law does not allow for this and releases the victims.

“There’s been discussion about detention as well, my view on that is that since the Legislation passed, every child that we have placed in foster care in the system has run within 24–48 hours,” says Detective Amber Schlote, Omaha Police Department.

Detective Schlote also said that since the beginning of this year, 25 arrests have been made dealing with prostitution and 3 within the last week in Lincoln. Even with those arrests, supporters say the crime is one that’s easily overlooked.

“Human trafficking is vastly under reported because its’ victims are almost always under coercion and are often completely dependent on the criminals who victimize them for even the most basic necessities of life,” says Weysan Dun, Governor’s Task Force.

Sen. Bob Krist says if passed this bill would criminalize the victims of human trafficking and put them back in the juvenile centers, where we are trying to keep them out of. Other people against it, say the bill isn’t ready and is focusing on the wrong aspects. 

“This bill is premature. This bill is not good for the purposes of the treatment side,” says Tom Strigenz, Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association.

Even some supporters agree, the bill does not address all the issues, but getting somewhere on the problem is the concern.

“That hammer is not to the girls who are the victims, the hammer is to those who take advantage of these girls and treat them like commodities,” says Doug Peterson, Attorney General.

“It’s easier to recruit a child when that child knows there are no repercussions for the actions that they are a part of,” says Schlote.

According to the Department of Justice, human trafficking is the second largest industry for organized crime. For many victims, it’s the only life they know and the reason why there’s a high rate of return.