This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Lawmakers advanced a bill Friday to make it easier to prosecute human trafficking of minors.
The House Law Enforcement Committee voted 9-0 to endorse HB252, and sent it to the full House.
Its sponsor, House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said it removes a current requirement for prosecutors to prove fraud or coercion for a conviction.
The bill says someone is guilty if he or she "recruits, harbors, transports, or obtains a child for labor or sexual exploitation."
"We're talking about modern-day slavery," King said.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes supported the bill testifying, "Human trafficking has become the second-most lucrative criminal enterprise internationally surpassing arms and weapons dealing. It is now second only to drug trafficking."
Reyes added human traffickers perceive it to be low-risk and high profit, so it is important to sharpen and toughen laws "to protect our children and aggressively prosecute those who prey on the most vulnerable in our midst."
He noted some Utah cases have involved scores of youth victims in both forced labor and the sex trade.
King said the State Department reports that "600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every day. More than 70 percent are female, and half are children. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the United States is 12 to 14 years old."
He added that while drugs "can be trafficked once, a person can be sold over and over again. That's why human trafficking is so lucrative and why it is so common as a crime."
"We want to think that things like this don't happen," said Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem. "The cold hard fact is there are people out there [who do it] and they do deserve to be punished, and this is the right approach."