State bill would add adult sex traffickers, customers to Megan’s Law lists

Sex trafficking is on the rise in Pennsylvania, and state Sen. Kim Ward wants authorities to better keep track of those convicted of the offense.

Ward, R-Hempfield, is proposing a change to state law that would require those convicted of the sex trafficking of adults to be added to the Megan’s List of sex offenders in the state.

“People convicted of trafficking juveniles are added to Megan’s List and those restrictions,” Ward said. “That’s not the case for convictions of people trafficking adults for the sex trade.”

Sex trafficking is defined as profiting by forcing another person to engage in sex acts either through the promise of payment or by the use of threats or violence.

“Its going on, and it’s terrible,” said Ward, who is in her third term.

Polaris, a group that maintains the National Human Trafficking Hotline, reported that Pennsylvania recorded 246 cases involving sexual trafficking in 2018. That was up from 199 cases in 2017; 157 cases in 2016; and 111 cases in 2015. 

There were fewer than 100 trafficking cases across the state in 2012, according to Polaris data.

Under Ward’s proposed legislation, traffickers and those who engage in sex acts with people being trafficked would be added to the state’s sexual offenders registry.

People convicted of sex trafficking an adult or patronizing an adult in sexual servitude would be added to the tier I offenders list, who must report their whereabouts and other information annually to state police for 15 years.

Someone convicted of causing the “sexual servitude” of an adult would be added to tier II offenders, who must report twice a year for 25 years.

Ward’s bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure has 12 cosponsors — from both political parties — in the Senate.

A Republican caucus spokeswoman on Tuesday said Ward’s bill remains in the Judiciary Committee. Records show the bill was assigned there on Jan. 31.

“A Department of Justice report from 2017 said most sex traffickers repeat crimes and have prior criminal records,” Ward said.

Ward said there appears to be support for the measure.

“I haven’t received any negative feedback,” she said.

A counselor who directs the Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center likes the bill.

“We have worked with (adult) victims of sexual trafficking in the past year. It’s not uncommon here,” HOPE Center Executive Director Michelle Gibb said, adding she thinks that the law regarding sex trafficking should apply to those who traffic adults as well as children.

“This should be a slam-dunk,” Gibb said.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, cbiedka@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

Human trafficking hotline

The National Human Trafficking Hotline serves victims and survivors of human trafficking and the anti-trafficking community in the United States.

Its contact number is 1-888-373-7888. TTY 711 or text 2337333. Live chat is available through its web page.

The toll-free hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year in more than 200 languages.

The hotline also can be accessed by emailing help@humantraffickinghotline.org, submitting a tip through the online tip reporting form, and visiting the web portal at http://www.humantraffickinghotline.org.

TribLIVE’s Daily and Weekly email newsletters deliver the news you want and information you need, right to your inbox.