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State fights sex trade

Published: Mar. 30, 2011 at 9:34 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 7, 2011 at 9:55 PM EDT
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Investigators say Atlanta is THE east coast hub for human trafficking. Now the state is strengthening its sex trafficking laws.

South Georgia law enforcers say if you think it doesn't happen here, you're naive.

The new legislation waiting for the Governor's signature imposes higher fines and stiffer sentences. It also offers new treatment options to people who could be victims of the sex slave trade.

The victims of this crime are most often girls, between the ages of 14 to 18 years old. Those who might be runaways, and not reported missing. Local law enforcement says while the new penalties are good they may not go far enough.

We know prostitution is a problem on Albany streets, but if you think sex trafficking is just an Atlanta problem, think again.  "There's a lot of suspicion of that going on in different areas, certain businesses in town that may be involved in that sort of thing are under investigation," said Dougherty County Sheriff's Capt. Craig Dodd.

Recently, officers with both the Dougherty County Police Department and the Sheriff's office went through training to identify the crime. "Training has been made more available especially from officers out of the Atlanta area, providing training,"  said Dougherty County Police Capt. Jimmy Sexton.

"More and more officers here need to go through this type of training. What's tough about this crime is it's done underground and the victims are coerced not to talk," Dodd said.

"The people who engage in this are using intimidating methods or are very coercive and forceful and a lot of these victims are afraid to talk about it," Sexton said.

"Once they've addicted them to drugs and physically abused them and intimidated them a lot of the times it starts out with repeated raping, being drugged, and repeatedly raped. Until they're compliant. The biggest target girls 14 to 18, runaways," Dodd said.

Police hope by strengthening the penalties for this crime, it will help keep the crime from spreading.

The legislation calls for a 25 year minimum sentence for those convicted of using coercion to traffic someone under the age of 18. It also slaps a minimum sentence of five years for anyone who pays for sex with a 16 year old.

People paying for sex with someone even younger face at least 10 years behind bars.

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