TOPEKA — As part of its efforts to combat human trafficking, the Kansas attorney general’s office is pushing for a bill that would extend protections to minors who have fallen victim.
Senate bill 281 would amend the Protection from Stalking and Sexual Assault Act to include relief for those who have been trafficked by allowing a county or district attorney, the attorney general or a child’s guardian to obtain a protection order for a minor who was trafficked, preventing them from being contacted or harassed by someone involved in their trafficking.
Assistant Attorney General Pat Colloton, chairman of the Human Trafficking Advisory Board, said the bill would provide relief to children who had been trafficked. Colloton spoke in favor of the bill at its committee hearing Tuesday. She said children may struggle to escape trafficking because they lack family support and their parents don’t have enough money.
“The ability to extricate is very difficult. This person is worth a lot of money to the trafficker,” Colloton said. “The trafficker is unlikely to just allow the child to go.”
Colloton said a child could be worth up to $1,000 a night.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office has made combatting human trafficking one of its priorities, and served more than 420 trafficking victims last year.
Any violation of a protection order would give law enforcement officials the opportunity to arrest an alleged trafficker and charge them for violation of the order.
Greg Smith, a liaison for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, said his office supports the bill because child victims are viewed as valuable by traffickers and therefore likely to reenter trafficking. The protection order available under the bill would prevent that by helping stop an alleged trafficker from contacting a child victim.
Sen. Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson, said the bill is only one step in fixing the human trafficking problem, and it’s not a “cure-all.”
“So many of these people are pulled out of that process only to return because of social pressure, no place for them to go, no parenting or guardian,” Wilborn said. “This is a step to get away from their pimps and to move forward in their lives.”
Amanda Stanley, legal counsel for the League of Kansas Municipalities, testified neutral on the bill, but asked that municipal employees be excluded from a law that requires human trafficking prevention training for those who have a commercial driver’s license.
Nathan Eberline, who represents the Kansas Association of Counties, proposed that municipal workers be excluded from the law because snow plow operators and trash collectors are not likely to see signs of human trafficking in the course of their work. The training requirement, they said, creates a financial burden.
Wilborn said while he feels legislators were sympathetic toward the concerns over the training, he would like to see the requirement addressed in another bill.
Wilborn expected the bill would get overwhelming support, not only in the Judiciary Committee, but also on the Senate and House floor.
The committee did note immediately vote on the bill Tuesday.