WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Kansas lawmakers are working towards increasing the penalties for human trafficking buyers as well as educating organizations on the signs of a victim. This new bill has passed the Senate and is currently in the House. If it passes and is signed by Governor Brownback, it would toughen some of the existing human trafficking laws and also require commercial truck drivers to take training on how to identify victims.
KSN News contacted Governor Brownback’s office to learn more about the legislation, and though they could not interview on the topic, they sent over this statement:
“Governor Brownback has long fought against human trafficking both nationally and here in Kansas, working to punish perpetrators and assist victims; he looks forward to reviewing this legislation closely.”
This new bill is mainly centered around education but there are also elements that protect the victim. For example, if it passes the House, victims of human trafficking will no longer be charged for crimes committed while under the influence of a buyer. This will create a huge protection for survivors.
“Humans are the third most trafficked items in the world right behind drugs and guns,” said Lt. Lin Dehning, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department.
Lt. Dehning says officers and even the military are required to complete human trafficking training.
“Any training on this topic is good,” explained Dehning.
Kansas lawmakers are now working towards extending that mandated education to commercial truck drivers, but KSN spoke to one who says he isn’t sure that’s necessary.
“Most of us are doing anywhere from 11 – 16 hour shifts,” said truck driver, Kyle Haase. “Maybe even more so, when I pull into a truck stop — I back in and I pull the curtain and go to bed and generally don’t answer my door.”
Kyle has been a truck driver for five years and says he’s never seen anyone that looked like a victim of human trafficking. However, WSU’s Center For Combating Human Trafficking says, that’s exactly the point.
“Being on the road as much as they are, truckers have a very unique opportunity that they can identify survivors or help with the identification,” said Allison Farres, from WSU’s Ct. For Combating Human Trafficking.
“We’d still like to see the end of criminalizing victims and an increased focus on addressing demand, said Farres. “There are survivors of human trafficking in our state and community who are being arrested, detained, and prosecuted because there are still misunderstandings about the complex nature of human trafficking.”
This new training would not only help truckers identify a victim on the road but also be aware of the signs of a buyer. Without training, truckers wouldn’t be able to get or renew their commercial license.
For information on how you or your organization can receive in-depth training on human trafficking, click here.