Human trafficking is the second most pervasive crime in the world behind drug trafficking. In an effort to bring the issue to the minds of more Pennsylvanians, State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) has launched a statewide billboard ad campaign.
“It is a huge problem, not just in other countries, but here in the United States. A lot of people don’t know that because it’s sort of a crime that’s in the shadows and it’s difficult to prosecute sometimes. So the most important thing we can do is raise awareness of the crime,” he said.
Human trafficking typically takes two forms – there’s forced labor, like working in restaurants or as nannies under bad conditions and there’s the most common form, sex trafficking. Leach said the commonwealth is not immune to the problem.
“This happens to tens of thousands of people in Pennsylvania,” he said, “but beyond actual victims in Pennsylvania, the state is one of the leading crossroads for the actual trafficking, the transport of what are essentially human slaves because of our proximity to New York and Washington and other places.”
Leach has introduced a bill that would require certain businesses to post signs with information and a phone number for the Polaris Project, a worldwide anti-human trafficking organization. He said it’s passed a couple of committees, but has yet to be considered by the full Senate or the House. Leach hopes action will be taken on it in the fall, in the meantime, he added, “we’ve gotta get this sign in every bar, in every restaurant, it’s an 8.5x11 sign we’re asking people to put up, just providing a phone number, it doesn’t cost anybody anything.” 12 states have enacted similar legislation.
The statewide campaign is a partnership with anti-human trafficking advocates and corporate partners and features billboards that point people to a national human trafficking hotline. That number received nearly 20,000 calls and helped 3,000 potential trafficking victims in 2010, a 64% increase in call volume from 2010.