An Assembly committee has approved sweeping bipartisan legislation to crackdown on human trafficking. The measure builds upon nearly a year’s worth of research and consultations with experts and advocates to tackle a growing crime that is estimated to claim up to 20 million victims worldwide.

Dave Polaski, Townsquare Media

“Human trafficking is a vast and often highly secretive crime,” says Assemblyman Peter Barnes, who chairs the Judiciary Committee. “We must be more coordinated and sophisticated to crack down on this illegal trade, especially with the Super Bowl headed our way in 2014. Statistics from other bowl games have shown a sharp increase in human trafficking leading up the event.”

“Until recently, human trafficking has remained largely in the shadows of society,” says Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle. “Victims are often children and vulnerable women who are too afraid and dependent on traffickers to break their silence and seek help. Many times they are exploited for years and coerced into prostitution, labor, and drug activity. When they finally have a chance to regain their freedom, they are prosecuted for the crimes they were forced to commit while enslaved, while the real perpetrators remain untouched by the law. With this bill, we hope to change all that.”

The legislation would crack down on human trafficking by revising and expanding the state’s current laws to create a new human trafficking commission, criminalize additional activities related to human trafficking, upgrade certain penalties on existing human trafficking or related crimes, increase protections afforded to victims of human trafficking, and provide for increased training and public awareness on human trafficking issues.