TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Lawmakers are trying to put the topic of human trafficking front and center on the minds of Kansans.
A new bill would require certain businesses and public places to display a sign to help and support victims of trafficking.
Last year a similar proposal passed unanimously in the Senate but it didn’t reach the House. It would have promoted the 24/7 national human trafficking hotline, 1 (888) 373-7888.
“If you’re traveling and you stop at a truck stop and you see some young girls getting out of trucks, you can just call the hotline and give them as much information as you can, and they’ll call local law enforcement and they’ll investigate that,” said Sharon Sullivan with the Topeka Shawnee County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition.
This year’s bill would put signs in workplaces where employment discrimination and child labor notices are already required. It would also mandate places like strip clubs, massage parlors, convenience stores, and rest areas display the sign.
“It’s an effort we’re trying to make across the state for the last few years on human trafficking, sex trafficking and all that,” said McPherson Senator Rick Wilborn, vice-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the bill is being debated.
Victims could be being trafficked for sex or work. Supporters said with as many people that travel through Kansas on busy roadways, it’s important for the state to inform people.
“Education is the way that we solve this problem, it’s been hidden for too long, and we act like it’s a dirty word, but it’s happening all around us,” Sullivan said.
Wilborn said bills like this one that address human trafficking will continue to be talked about in the legislature.
“We’re just trying to get on top of it, and it is a form of slavery, let’s face it. It is egregious in every aspect,” Wilborn said.
Supporters also said the bill shows criminals that Kansans are keeping their eyes open.
“It sends a very clear message that this is not acceptable in our community, that this is not acceptable in our state, and we are on the lookout for you. We’re utilizing all our citizenry to fight this crime,” Sullivan said.
If passed by both chambers of the legislature, it would be up to the attorney general to decide what exactly the sign should look like.