Runestad bill seeks to reduce human trafficking

Runestad bill seeks to reduce human trafficking

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad introduced a bill Tuesday that would help law enforcement crack down on human trafficking.

Senate Bill 717 would help police identify victims of repeat incidents of domestic violence where human trafficking may be a factor.

“Under current law, police are required to fill out a standard report form for domestic violence incidents, but some of these instances actually involve human trafficking,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “My bill will revise the Standard Domestic Violence Incident Report Form to allow police to indicate whether they are also investigating for human trafficking.”

Runestad said it is sometimes difficult to identify the crime.

“Human trafficking can involve either involuntary servitude or commercial sex trafficking, and some instances may on the surface appear to be domestic violence incidents,” Runestad said. “The victims are often moved from place to place, which keeps them vulnerable and unable to gain access to social services or establish relationships with local law enforcement.

“Because of this, cases are not often easily identified as human trafficking by law enforcement. Including this new checkbox on the form will help us track how often officers are investigating for human trafficking as a component of domestic violence.”

Runestad said human trafficking is illegal under international, federal and state law, and it is considered to be one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world.

In Michigan alone, there were 1,504 total cases of human trafficking logged from December 2007 through December 2018, based on contacts received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

“That number is probably only a fraction of the actual cases of human trafficking,” Runestad said. “This is a crime that is significantly underreported.”

Because of the prevalence and significance of the crime, a House resolution recently declared January 2019 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the state of Michigan.

SB 717 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

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