State House and Senate members are teaming up in a new attack against human traffickers who target children.
Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) filed a substitute to her bill increasing the penalties against sex traffickers to match newly filed legislation by Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula) and Rep. Andrew Welch (R-McDonough).
She presented her bill during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
The measure would allow the vehicles of convicted sex traffickers be seized and force them to pay a $2,500 fine into a fund that would go towards rehabilitating young victims. Adult entertainment establishments would also have to pay an annual $5,000 fee that would go towards the same fund.
“This continues that march towards being able to help take care of victims… victims of child sexual exploitation,” says Unterman.
Efstration says it’s similar to a law that currently allows the seizure of assets in drug operations.
“The offenders that were committing these offences would bond out of jail and the very next day were right back in business,” he says. “(It) allows law enforcement to seize the motor vehicles, the assets and property of the offenders so that the criminal enterprise is stopped.”
The bill would also require anyone convicted of child sex exploitation to register with the state as a sex offender.
Unterman says the problem of child sex trafficking is a growing one not only the city of Atlanta but also in the suburbs.
The Gwinnett County Police Department has two units that deal with such crimes and follow the internet closely where services are often advertised.
“One of the things that we have seen over the last several years, especially with the advent of social media, Fackbook, Backpage… is children’s ready access to the internet; danger is just a click away,” says Chief Butch Ayers.
Finally, the bill also extends the statute of limitations for when child victims of sex exploitation can file a civil suit from age 23 to 25.
The bill called “Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Act” is named for a now 20-year-old victim who was forced into prostitution at age 17 by her then “boyfriend” while the two were on a trip out of town.
“This bill is named after a person who represents all those children who have been exploited and those that are out there today that we don’t know the names of,” says Welch.