Prostitution and human trafficking is a $32 billion industry worldwide, and Las Vegas is one of the capitals of it. A bill making its way through the Nevada Legislature is aimed at toughening punishments for pimps, and making sure the victims have the resources they need to recover.
Las Vegas resident Andrea Swanson admits to believing stereotypes about pimps and prostitutes until she learned her teenage daughter, a high school student in Clark County, had become a victim of sex trafficking at age 17.
Swanson describes her daughter as all-American, but says she began to notice a change in her behavior and appearance in the weeks leading up to a stunning confession.
"(My daughter) said 'You find a very drunk person on the strip, a male. You proposition him, bring him up to the room and tell him to clean up, and when he does you rob him. And that's a trick roll,'" said Swanson.
Swanson says she didn't suspect her daughter's boyfriend was actually her pimp, and also the man behind her new provocative clothing, severely calloused feet and physical abuse.
"It's easy money for them and they don't have to put their lives on the line for it. They get these young kids to do it," Swanson said.
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto says manipulating children into sex trafficking is all too common in Nevada, and she hopes Assembly Bill 67 will curb the problem.
"I've seen in this state, the youngest child that's been forced into prostitution was 12 years old," the attorney general said. She says more than 2,000 children in the United States have become victims of sex trafficking in the last 10 years, and that number only reflects reported cases of abuse.
Under current law, a convicted pimp can be sentenced to one to four years in prison, with the possibility of probation. If AB-67 passes, anyone convicted of sex trafficking a child would serve a minimum of five to 15 years, depending on the child's age, without probation. They would also be responsible for paying for the victim's recovery by forfeiting items and cash obtained through sex trafficking. The remaining money would support recovery programs to help other victims.
"These girls are somebody's daughter, somebody's sister. And they need our help as a community," said an emotional Swanson.
She says after multiple arrests and years of leaving, then returning to her pimp, her daughter left the streets and her pimp for good in February.
Swanson says her daughter refuses to tell her the details of what she endured when she was working for her pimp.
AB-67 was unanimously approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and will be presented to the Way and Means Committee Thursday evening.
Copyright 2013 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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