Pa. House approves bills aimed at punishing human traffickers, protecting victims

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — The state House has approved a package of bills to crack down on human trafficking. 

Victims' advocates say people find it difficult to believe that human trafficking is happening everywhere, not just in big cities. Republican Bryan Cutler, the state House majority leader, says his southern Lancaster County district is known for its rich, rural history. But he says Rte. 30 also runs through that district.

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday told the story of one young woman who was initially arrested for dealing heroin. Only upon further investigation did authorities determine that the woman was just a pawn in a more despicable scheme, in which she gave the drug money to others.

"Those other people were the drug traffickers that originally found her in New Jersey ... and trafficked her to York. They then utilized her to hand the drugs to people," Sunday said.

Realizing the woman was a victim, authorities placed her into drug treatment and reunited her with her family. 

Among the bills approved by the state House this past week are those that aim to increase penalties or expand the definition of crimes related to human trafficking. One of the bills approved by the state House this past week increases the crimes of human trafficking and patronizing a victim of sexual servitude to a first degree felony. That one has already passed the Senate and is now headed to the governor’s desk.

Other bills in the package are on their way to the state Senate for consideration.