State lawmakers hear about a growing problem in Nebraska: human trafficking, especially the sexual exploitation of children.
FBI Special Agent Weysan Dun of Omaha tells lawmakers this is a growing problem.
“Sexual exploitation of children has become a growth industry,” Weysan flatly states during testimony before the Judiciary Committee.
The committee has heard testimony on the growing problem of human trafficking. Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln, a member of the committee, intends to file legislation in the regular session which begins next month.
State senators have been told that human trafficking might take many forms, but often enslaves young women. It is estimated that while approximately 14% of those caught in the web of human trafficking become in effect indentured servants, forced laborers while about 82% are trafficked for sex.
Those testifying before the committee tell grim stories of immigrants brought to this country with promises of a new life only to walk the streets as prostitutes. Human trafficking, though, doesn’t just prey upon immigrants. It also ensnares young women in this country with other promises.
Corey O’Brien with the Nebraska Attorney General’s office tells of a pair of 15-year-old girls transported from Minneapolis to Omaha.
“They met at a mall in Minneapolis and they were brought here on the prospect of, ‘Come to Omaha, we’re going to make you models,’” O’Brien tells the committee. “They got here and they realized that their modeling career had been transformed into a forced life of prostitution.”
Law enforcement officers say those who run the human trafficking rings prey upon the vulnerable; those fleeing a bad family situation, those fighting drug addiction, the poor and the uneducated. They say young teen-agers can be lured into prostitution a number of ways and stay, because they see no alternative. Human traffickers often hide their illegal activities in the guise of massage parlors and escort services.
Lincoln Public Safety Director Tom Casady provides a short list of suggestions lawmakers might consider, such as regulating the escort business, making pandering and contributing to the delinquency of a minor a more severe crime, training law officers how better to handle the victims of human trafficking and increasing money provided for drug and alcohol treatment.