When legislators return to work in Maryland and Virginia in the new year, there will be a flurry of bills to fight the crime — specifically, human trafficking.
A series of new legislation is in the works from Rockville to Richmond amid concerns about the rising number of prosecutions for human trafficking.
Justice Department reports reviewed by News4 show a 20% spike in prosecutions for trafficking, and local governments from Rockville to Richmond are responding when legislators reconvene in January.
Recent sex trafficking cases show the problem occurs far and wide, from a hotel near the White House to spas to out of homes.
“It’s like living in a warzone, 24/7,” Elisabeth Corey said. As a young girl, she was the victim of trafficking and the trauma lasted for years.
“That doesn’t just go away. There’s healing that has to happen,” she says.
News4 has learned at the Maryland statehouse next month, senators will debate a new law to expunge the criminal records of victims of trafficking, clearing them of non-violent crimes they committed while being trafficked.
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“So they can get on with their lives. Recover and rebuild, get jobs, employment, housing,” Sen. Susan Lee, D-Bethesda, said.
In Richmond, Virginia legislators will consider new law requiring school resource police officers to be trained to spot warning signs among students that have been or are victims of trafficking.
And months after police accused a massage parlor in an office park near the Rockville Pike of trafficking, Montgomery County Council members will consider stiffening rules for spas and massage parlors.
“Now we’re seeing it where this sex trafficking is happening inside these venues. Instead of offering true body services, they’re offering sex for sale,” Montgomery County Council Member Craig Rice said.
The county will consider requiring all employees at massage parlors and spas have a license to perform services.
A lot is changing in politics locally, with shifting control of the Virginia legislature and new leaders in the Maryland legislature.
But recent trafficking bills have been bi-partisan and are unlikely to be impacted when the legislators return in a few weeks.