A working group of the Childrens Services Commission is holding a meeting of the minds to figure out how to best combat human trafficking in Missouri for sex and labor.

Representative Jeff Grisamore of Kansas City says legislators, law enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, prosecutors and the FBI are working on strenthening penalties for sex trafficking and labor trafficking in Missouri, so they better match federal punishments.

Grisamore says they’re looking at legislation that would expand the statute of limitations, strengthen safe harbor laws, put in place mandatory reporting requirements and more.

He says the majority of cases are in St. Louis and Kansas City, but there is evidence of human trafficking in outlying areas of Missouri, too, either for labor or sex.

Grisamore says the problem is growing, and some of the biggest cases in the nation are being tried in Missouri.

He says state law caps some of the crimes at five years, when federal laws impose up to 15 years. The goal is to get state law more in line with federal punishment to provide a deterrant to those who exploit kids and adults for sex and labor.

“We want to expand the statute of limitations, strenthen safe harbor laws, and implement mandatory reporting requirements,” he says, pointing out the need for an advisory counsel that would bring together all state departments involved, such as the Department of Public Safety, Department of Social Services, law enforcement and prosecutors from the state, federa l and county level, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Highway Patrol and others.

Legislation has been filed — HB 214 — to start the process of cracking down on human trafficking in Missouri. The bill would more completely define human trafficking, as well as create harsher penalties to those convicted of the crime.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports [listen, Mp3]

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta interviews Rep. Grisamore [Mp3, 6 min.]