- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Washington-based group that advocates stronger laws against human trafficking says nine states are lagging in passing laws to combat the growing crime.

The Polaris Project said in a report Thursday that the nine states have either failed to enact basic human-trafficking provisions or the provisions they have adopted are inadequate to address the problem. Polaris called the states the “Nine Lagging Behind.”

The organization, which also helps trafficking victims by running a national hot line and providing social services, annually rates the 50 states on whether or not they have adopted 10 categories of laws it thinks are critical for the states to stop trafficking.

“Every day we are identifying an alarming number of victims from every state through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hot line,” said Mary Ellison, director of policy at the Polaris Project. “Continuing to improve the legal framework at the state level by enacting critically important statutes will literally save lives.”

The Polaris Project gave its lowest rankings to Massachusetts, West Virginia and Wyoming, saying the states had failed to enact any laws against human trafficking.

“These three states have no human trafficking laws,” said James Dold, policy counsel for Polaris. He said the Massachusetts legislature has been considering an anti-trafficking bill.

The remaining six states that Polaris singled out for criticism were Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, South Carolina and South Dakota. The Polaris report said those states only met two or fewer of the 10 categories of statutes that the group recommends.

Polaris also named four states, including Virginia, it said had improved their ratings from last year. The others were Vermont, Hawaii and Ohio.

Ms. Ellison said that, overall, the states have made progress but she and Mr. Dold both said more needs to be done.

“Ten years after the passage of the federal anti-trafficking law, forty-five states, including D.C., now have sex-trafficking criminal statutes, and forty-eight states have labor trafficking criminal statutes” she said.

Mr. Dold said that in addition to passing criminal statutes, the states need to focus on enacting legislation that provides “victim assistance and services.”

Sex trafficking involves forcing another person to engage in a commercial sex act while labor trafficking involves forcing another person to provide labor or services.

Human trafficking is a $32 billion-a-year industry worldwide and an estimated 100,000 U.S. children are exploited in the commercial sex industry annually, according to the Polaris Project.