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Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking Background

Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. Traffickers reap billions in profits by using force, fraud or coercion to rob victims of their freedom through labor or commercial sex. And while experts estimate that there are a minimum of approximately 5,100 to 60,500 people trafficked into and within the U.S. each year, there are thousands of U.S. citizens trafficked within our borders, including an estimated 100,000 American children who are prostituted within the U.S. each year — a brutal form of human trafficking.

In Pennsylvania, victims of sex and labor trafficking include U.S. citizens, foreign nationals, minors and adults.

PA is a “Pass-Through” State as well as a Destination for Human Trafficking.  In addition to commercial front businesses and agricultural operations, traffickers utilize the many highways of the state to move victims between trafficking hotspots in Ohio, New Jersey and New York, and to connect with the I-95 corridor in which victims are moved along the Eastern Seaboard from New York to Maryland, DC, Georgia and Florida. In Pennsylvania, truck stops, especially those along the “Miracle Mile” are known for playing host to sex trafficking.

State Legislative Action

In 2012, a human trafficking bill I teamed up with Representative Clymer to introduce was signed into law. The new law requires posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline (1-888-373-7888) in strategic locations in PA where victims and potential tipsters are most likely to see it. The hotline provides a bridge to help for victims of human trafficking, an outlet for tipsters and vital resources including training to the public, law enforcement and first responders.

ACT 105 – 2015 Safe Harbor Legislation Introduced by Senators Leach and Greenleaf

Villanova Law Institute to address Commercial Sexual Exploitation: Main Objectives of Safe Harbor: 

  1. Provide full immunity for prostitution and proxy offenses if the individual is under 18 years of age, by amending criminal prostitution and juvenile delinquency statutes.
  2. Refer victims to voluntary victim services, rather than diverting into the mandatory custody of child protective services.
  3. Develop specialized victim services programs in order to meet the specific needs of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation, including but not limited to:
    1. Safe supportive and stable housing, with comprehensive on-site case management;
    2. Integrated mental health and chemical dependency service, including specialized trauma recovery services;
    3. Education, employment, and life skills training performed on-site; and
    4. Referrals to off-site specialized services, as appropriate.
  4. Assign a state agency or create a position within a state agency to oversee implementation and enforcement of this Act, including the creation of statewide protocols.
  5. Enhance penalties for promoters (traffickers), facilitators, and patrons of prostitution wherein the victim was under 18 years of age, to fund victim services.
  6. Mandate law enforcement training (curriculum, regulation, and requirements).
  7. Create a statewide public awareness campaign to raise awareness of commercial sexual exploitation of children in order to shift the public perceptions of “child prostitution” and related offenses.

Victory! Act 105  (a.k.a. Senate Bill 75) was signed into law by the governor on July 2, 2014. The law went into effect on September 2nd.

This Act Amends the Pa Consolidated Statutes, extensively revising the law on HT in prosecution, prevention, classification of offenses, victim services and victim protection during prosecution including confidentiality.

Significant subchapters of the law include:

  • Prior to Act 105, PA law only vaguely defined labor trafficking, not sex trafficking.
  • This new statute specifically outlines the crime of sex trafficking; Giving us Pa’s first comprehensive legal definition of human trafficking.
  • A person commits a felony of the 2nd degree for trafficking, and a felony of the 1st degree if a person engages in trafficking of a minor (under 18). Also, felony of the 1st degree for involuntary servitude.
  • A person patronizing a victim commits a felony of the 2nd degree, if they engage in conduct with another knowing they are a victim of HT.
  • A person commits a felony of the 3rd degree if they destroy, remove, or confiscate a gov’t document to restrict movement.
  • Asset forfeiture, victim protection and restitution are outlined
  • An opportunity to vacate convictions that are a result of being a victim is provided.
  • Anyone convicted in cases where victim is minor must register under Megan’s Law

Currently, PA’s Act 105 Implementation Work Group is organizing to provide for Logistics, Public Awareness, Victim Services, Trainings, Data collection, Legal Research and Technical Assistance to the courts and attorneys; and is exploring funding sources for implementations efforts. Please call my office at 610-768-4200 if you would like to get involved or have additional questions.

Senate Bill 915 

An Act amending Titles 18 (Crimes and Offenses) and 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in public indecency, further providing for the offense of prostitution and related offenses; and, in juvenile matters, further providing for short title and purposes of chapter, for definitions, and for informal adjustment; adding provisions relating to safe harbor for sexually exploited children; and establishing the Sexually Exploited Children Special Fund.

Prime Sponsor: Senator Leach

Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children

  • Creates a special fund for Sexually Exploited Children to be used to help provide much needed services to this vulnerable population, including housing, education, medical care, mental healthcare, and case management.
  • The special fund will be financed by imposing mandatory fines on those who are creating the demand for commercial sex that leads to exploitation of vulnerable persons, especially young girls & women.
  • Requires the Department of Public Welfare to help coordinate the delivery of services to sexually exploited children.
  • Establishes a diversion program for sexually exploited children so that instead of being prosecuted as delinquents these children will be treated as a dependent child in need of services so that they can get the appropriate care they need and deserve.

Child Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children 

  • Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in world.
  • Human trafficking generates over $32 billion in profits annually.
  • Experts estimate that as many as 300,000 American children are at risk for sexual exploitation every year.
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 100,000 U.S. children are exploited thru prostitution every year.
  • From 1992 to 2009 FBI arrest data shows that between 1,200 and 1,600 children were arrested yearly for prostitution-related offenses.
  • Children who are victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation are often arrested on other status offenses, including violations for curfew, loitering, and trespassing laws which is not adequately reflected in the arrest data for prostitution.
  • About Pimps/Trafficker Tactics: Pimps and traffickers target children with low self-esteem who often come from broken families or have past childhood trauma. After the pimp or trafficker earns their trust they will engage in physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse of the child. The effect is to psychologically and emotionally break the child so that he or she becomes completely dependent on their abuser. Psychologists and Clinicians call this phenomenon “Traumatic Bonding,” which results in misplaced loyalty as found in situations of exploitative cults, incestuous families, or in hostage or kidnapping situations.
  • As a result of this traumatic bonding, child sex trafficking victims rarely self-identify and consequently deny having a pimp or trafficker.
  • Other child victims of commercial sexual exploitation often turn to commercial sex out of desperation for food, money, or a place to stay. They usually are runaways from broken homes where they have been beaten, raped, or tortured by unfit parents or guardians.
  • These children are victims, not criminals, and deserve the protection of the child welfare system, not re-victimization and incarceration in the juvenile justice system.
  • In order to effectively break the ties between sexually exploited children and their traffickers, the system must do a better job at (1) identifying sex trafficked children, (2) treating them with care and compassion, and (3) providing them with the services and resources necessary for them to break the traumatic bond with their pimp.
  • By enacting Safe Harbor legislation, not only are we protecting our children and allowing them to heal from their victimization, but we are also putting them in the best position to help law enforcement and prosecutors target pimps and traffickers.

Senate Bill 75

An Act amending Titles 18 (Crimes and Offenses) and 42 (Judiciary and Judicial Procedure) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, extensively revising the law on human trafficking in the areas of prosecution, prevention, victim protection, evidentiary confidentiality, limitation of actions and victim impact statements; and making editorial changes.

On December 10, 2013, Senate Bill 75 was unanimously passed by the Senate and heads to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration. Contact Rep. Ron Marsico, head of that committee, to encourage him to bring the bill up for a vote.

Prime Sponsor: Senator Greenleaf

The “3 P’s” of Senate Bill 75  (Prosecution, Prevention, Protection)


Felony of the first degree  if person subjects an individual to involuntary servitude, such as:

  • —Causing or threatening serious harm
  • Physically restraining or threatening to physically restrain
  • —Kidnapping or attempting to kidnap
  • —Taking/retaining personal or real property as means of coercion
  • —Extortion, blackmail, deception or fraud

Felony of the second degree if person engages in sexual conduct with individual knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the person is a human trafficking victim

Felony of the third degree if the person knowingly destroys, conceals, removes, confiscates or possesses an actual or purported passport or other immigration document or government identification document in order to maintain the involuntary servitude of the individual

Criminal penalties for:

  • —Nonpayment of wages for services rendered
  • —Obstructing justice to prevent enforcement of this chapter
  • —Violations by business entities that aid or participate in any violation of this chapter


  • —Establishes the PA Council for Prevention of Human Trafficking in the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency.  Purpose:  to develop and assist the Commission in implementing state plan. 
  • —During prosecution, nondisclosure of victim’s name
  • —Restitution to human trafficking victim
  • —Forfeiture of all assets of individual/organization used in violation.
  • —In event of seizure of property, proceeds may be used to reimburse law enforcement agencies, with remaining amounts distributed as follows:
    • 30% to District Attorney to be used to investigate human trafficking cases
    • 35% to PA Council for Prevention of Human Trafficking
    • 35% to Office of Victims’ Services in PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency  

Senate Bill 338 – Signed into law

Senate Bill 338 would require the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline number be placed prominently in establishments with a liquor license, massage parlors, spas, hotels and motels considered nuisances, adult entertainment clubs and places of transit.

Leach noted that the Department of Health and Human Services funds the hotline, a resource for the community to report suspicious activity that may be trafficking-related. He added that the hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and serves as a resource to save lives that comes at no cost to the Commonwealth or its citizens.

Leach has introduced the bill in past sessions, but despite winning the support of Polaris Project, Women’s Way, the Tavern Association, the Tourism & Lodging Association, and dozens of state lawmakers, it has not yet reached the governor’s desk for a signature.

Sponsors: Leach, Fontana, Stack, Tartaglione, Williams, Washington, Vance, Brubaker, Farnese, and Schwank

Printer’s No. (PN)2264*, 1688, 0315  (* denotes Current Printer’s Number)

Short Title: An Act providing for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act; imposing duties on the Department of Labor and Industry; and prescribing penalties.


PN 0315: Referred to LABOR AND INDUSTRY, Jan. 28, 2011

PN 1688: Reported as amended, Oct. 18, 2011
                    First consideration, Oct. 18, 2011
Re-referred to APPROPRIATIONS, Nov. 16, 2011

PN 2264: Re-reported as amended, June 11, 2012
                    Laid on the table, June 29, 2012
Removed from table, June 29, 2012
Laid on the table, June 30, 2012

HB 235 – National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act

House Bill 235 is an Act providing for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act; imposing duties on the Department of Labor and Industry; and prescribing penalties.

Prime Sponsor – Represenatative Clymer

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Hotline

Pennsylvania Hotline Calls:

(National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 888-3737-888) From December 2007 to July 2010 the NHTRC Hotline received just 291 calls from Pennsylvania out of 20,616 calls nationally. New York had 721 calls and Ohio had 345 over roughly the same time period. Ohio law enforcement posted the hotline in more than 300 rest areas and truck stops throughout the state during 2010 and the hotline is advertised on the NYC non-emergency line – likely leading to the increase in calls.

Precedent for Posting:

Several states have enacted similar legislation, including Maryland, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Texas was the first (2007), and more than 35,000 establishments now post the hotline sign. The state consistently has the greatest number of calls to the hotline.

Enforcement and Cost:

Enforcement of the required posting is complaint driven and conducted by the agency that oversees the entity, similar to the current smoking law. The sign will be available on the Department of Labor and Industry’s website, at no cost to the state.


Ending Human Trafficking in Pennsylvania: How you can Help

Thank You!

Thank you for wanting to learn more about how you can help end human trafficking in your area.  This handout includes more information on how you can advocate to strengthen our laws and resources related to human trafficking, and how you can raise awareness of the issue.

Know the Basic Facts:

Before you talk to others about human trafficking, it can be helpful to know basic facts about the issue. We’ve included three examples below, but you can find more information at www.polarisproject.org.

  1. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery.  Victims of trafficking are exploited for commercial sex or labor purposes through force, fraud, or coercion.
  2. According to Polaris Project, a national anti-trafficking organization, Pennsylvania is one of two states in the entire country that lacks a comprehensive legal definition of human trafficking.
  3. Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking – men, women, and children. In a recent study conducted by the US Department of Health & Human Services analyzing the background of domestic victims of trafficking, victims came from ALL socio-economic groups in the United States.

At the national level, the United States has strong laws to prosecute traffickers and protect victims of trafficking.  However, at the state level, Pennsylvania does not have strong laws or resources to prosecute offenders or protect victims. Right now, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering a very important anti-trafficking bill, Senate Bill 75, that will help to change the situation in our state and members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly need to hear from community members – like you – about why it’s so important to pass this bill.

Background on Senate Bill 75:

Senate Bill 75 was introduced in January of 2013 by Senator Greenleaf.  The core content of this bill comes from over two years of work by a state advisory committee, which was brought together to assess and respond to human trafficking in Pennsylvania.

In January 2013, the bill was voted out of the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary committee.  At this time, a collaborative and comprehensive amendment process was undertaken to further strengthen the bill’s provisions to better protect victims, prosecute offenders, and prevent human trafficking from happening in the first place.  The anti-trafficking advocate and service provider communities were actively engaged in the amendment process, working closely with Senate staff and a wide variety of stakeholders, including government agencies and law enforcement, to develop a strong and effective amendment to SB 75.

The amended bill was then voted on by the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations committee and then by the full Senate, passing 50-0 on Tuesday, December 10, 2013.  The bill has now moved to the Pennsylvania House and has been assigned to the House Judiciary committee for consideration.  Because the bill originated in the Senate, it will keep its name, Senate Bill 75, as it is considered in the House.

How to Help:

Now that Senate Bill 75 is under consideration by the Pennsylvania House, we need your help contacting State Representatives to ask them to support Senate Bill 75.  Included on the last two pages of this action guide are instructions and a sample letter you can customize and send to your State Representative.  Once you’ve sent your letter, ask other people you know to send a letter too.  Our elected officials rely on community members to let them that an issue is important.

How to write a letter to your State Representative

Step 1 – Find Your Representative:

To find the name and address of your State Representative, please visit http://www.legis.state.pa.us and click on House tab and then on “Who’s My Legislator?” to find the names of your Representative. You can then visit your Representative’s page by clicking on the House tab, scrolling down to Representatives, and then selecting “Listed Alphabetically.”  Once you’ve found your Representative’s name, click on it to be directed to her/his webpage. You can find the email or web-based contact for your Representative by clicking on the image of an envelope under your Representative’s picture (you may be redirected to your Representative’s personal website). If you prefer to mail a letter, you can find your mailing addresses for your Representative’s offices listed on the lower, left-hand side of the page.

Step 2 – Customize Your Letter:

You can find customizable templates for a letter to your Pennsylvania State Representative on the last page of this action guide.  To customize the letter, look for the five sections of the letter that are enclosed in brackets and highlighted in yellow, like this: [Your Name Here].  These are the places where you should personalize the letter, such as adding the name and address of your elected official, your name, your ALS story, etc. Remember to update ALL of the highlighted sections of the letter.

Step 3 – Send Your Letter:

To mail your letter, once you have customized the sections of the letter highlighted in yellow, you can select the print option from the “File” menu. When you’re on the print menu, select “Page Range” and enter 3-4 into the box. This will only print the letter and will not print the first page of this guide. If you’re sending an email, copy and paste your edited letter into a blank email.

Have Questions or Need More Information?

If you have any questions about anti-human trafficking advocacy activities in Pennsylvania or would like to learn more about other ways to get involved, you can contact [email protected] and someone from the Pennsylvania Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Work Group will be in touch with more information.

Thank you for working to end human trafficking!

Last updated: January 27, 2020 at 13:21 pm