City officials hope task force, new law help combat issue
A new Arizona law went into effect last month that Phoenix leaders are hoping will send the message that the city has no tolerance for human trafficking.
House Bill 2454 increases penalties for traffickers and clients of prostitution, addresses online advertisements and sets criminal and civil penalties and recognizes minor victims as victims under the law.
“Our entire council supported this law during the legislative session because we understand that we have to strengthen Arizona’s stance against human trafficking and child prostitution,” said Mayor Greg Stanton. “When it comes to these heinous crimes, we are all working together to make our community a safer place for every resident.”
The city formed a Human Trafficking Task Force to bring together experts on the subject and create a five-year plan for the city to fight human trafficking. The group has partners from O’Connor House, ASU School of Social Work, Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, TRUST, Natalie’s House, Southwest Airlines, Arizona Foundation for Women, Hickey Family Foundation, Phoenix Dream Center, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development and Ascension Lutheran Church.
The task force’s four-pronged approach unites law enforcement, victim services, awareness and outreach, and training. They plan to come out with their own marketing materials and support state and national campaigns; track and evaluate current training and develop training courses; enhance technology for law enforcement and do mandatory training; and coordinate service providers to give access to comprehensive care.
Task force members and law enforcement agencies from across the state came together on July 24 to celebrate the law going into effect.
“Today’s event demonstrates the unified force at play here in Arizona when it comes to combating this crime that preys on children,” said Vice Mayor Jim Waring. “This goes way beyond a big sporting event. This is about making it clear who the criminals are — and who are the victims — and moves us closer to ensuring Arizona is the most undesirable state in the nation for this kind of criminal activity 365 days of the year.”
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