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Letter: More to do in human trafficking

It was wonderful to see a recent editorial highlighting human trafficking in North Dakota. The Forum editorial (Oil boom sex trade an epidemic; July 22) rightfully described it in terms of “historical standards” and “epidemic levels.”

This insidious and hidden crime world has permeated unsuspecting communities across the state, and is increasing at an alarming rate. While much of the attention comes from the western part of the state, evidence and arrests demonstrate the activity is not specific to any one portion of our great state, and must be addressed aggressively to protect our children, families, friends – as well as the general visiting population.

As noted in the editorial, law enforcement and attorneys have been doing an excellent job of stepping up to this challenge, but the question was posed: What is the Legislature doing? A fair question given that comprehensive laws are paramount to the ability for law enforcement and the judicial system to make effective impacts.

Due to the complexity and urgency of the issue, it’s likely we will see a number of individual bills presented on the subject of human trafficking as it relates to supply, demand, training, enforcement and victim services. No doubt, funding will be a critical aspect.

The North Dakota Uniform Laws Commission, comprised in part by legislative and judicial members, will recommend language move forward in the 2015 session on the “Prevention and Remedies for Human Trafficking.” Essentially, this act would provide for comprehensive definitions, penalties, victim restitution, service eligibility and protections, a Governor’s Trafficking Council, and law enforcement protocols. Like the necessary under-structure of a bridge, this would provide for the foundation necessary to support enforceability and victim assistance. If passed, it would move North Dakota toward alignment with other state and federal laws for greater continuity.

Simultaneously, work has been ongoing by a number of legislators, concerned individuals and private service providers to address the many needs presented once victims and survivors are identified. In the past year, tremendous gains have been made. Certainly, much more lies ahead. With the continued determination of the legal/law community, legislators and the concerned public, there is great optimism we will make decisive impacts in the 2015 legislative session against all forms of human trafficking in North Dakota.

Mooney, D-Cummings, represents District 20 in the North Dakota House of Representatives.