A recent increase in inquiries about missing or runaway kids has some people asking if there has been an increase in sex trafficking in the St. Louis area.
The Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation says it is unclear if sex trafficking has increased or if there is increased awareness of the problem.
“In many cases what we find with younger kids could be family members who are trafficking them, so in that case you wouldn’t have a report of a runaway because they’re trafficked out of their own home,” said Amanda Colegrove with the Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation.
Colegrove said high poverty adds to the problem of young people being trafficked. Highways that crisscross Missouri make it easy for adults to bring children into the state.
Nationwide, around 85 percent of the victims are female.
“We do know for sure that the ease at which traffickers can get in and out of state means we have a lot of pass through trafficking happening as traffickers bring their victims, both boys and girls, from one state to the next,” said Colegrove.
Missouri lawmakers in Jefferson City are considering three bills aimed at human trafficking.
One proposal, known as the Safe Harbor Law, would mean prosecutors would not charge a minor involved in commercial sex with prostitution, but would treat them as victims of human trafficking.
Those victims would also have non-violent crimes expunged from their record.
The bill also calls for mandatory posting of a hotline phone number at truck stops, strip clubs and massage parlors so victims can reach out for help.
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