Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri)

The expansion of federal funding for law enforcement to fight sex trafficking has passed in the U.S. House. West central Missouri Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s bi-partisan bill would help law enforcement arrest the criminals buying sex.

“Recently, leaders in the law enforcement community have discovered that the only effective practice for combatting sex trafficking are those that include combatting demand for commercial sex,” says Hartzler. “Women and children around the nation, and even in Missouri, are being victimized every day by a sex trafficking industry that takes their life, hope and dignity just to make a profit.”

Many law enforcement agencies practice demand reduction programs or would like to practice them but don’t have the resources to fully invest in keeping sex trafficking out of their areas.

“Our officers are asking for more resources to protect the victims and bring justice to these criminals, and we need to back them up,” adds Hartzler. “My bill addresses the epidemic of sex trafficking by giving police officers the resources they need to go after the criminals behind these terrible crimes.”

Congressman Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis)

Eastern Missouri Democratic Congressman Lacy Clay spoke in favor of Hartzler’s legislation.

“Most of the victims are minor children, and some of them have been kidnapped, beaten and deceived by organized criminal enterprises who are exploiting their bodies for profit,” says Clay. “But this sick and inhuman practice could not continue without steady demand, and reducing that market is exactly the purpose of this important bill.”

Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D) gave an emotional floor speech as well, urging her colleagues to vote for the Hartzler bill. Jackson-Lee says trafficking has been a major issue in Houston.

Hartzler is working on another bill that would expand grant money to provide transitional housing for sex trafficking victims.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that Missouri ranks 17th in the nation in reported human trafficking cases with many of those cases involving minors.

In 2016, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 26,727 calls and 7,572 human trafficking cases were reported. It’s estimated that there are more than 20 million people enslaved worldwide but that few of them are identified as human trafficking victims.