Assembly panel hears bill to help deal with human trafficking

CARSON CITY — An Assembly committee considered a measure Wednesday that would build a program to teach law enforcement officers, educators and other state officials how to deal with the unique problems faced by victims of human trafficking.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, presented Assembly Bill 338 to members of the Judiciary Committee two days before bills must clear committee or fail without further debate.

The bill also would require the state to post signs at locations suspected as hot spots for trafficking.

Proponents hope the legislation will help victims escape sooner and provide better services to help them once they break free, and a sex trafficking survivor told the committee via a video feed from Las Vegas that the proposed law could have done that for her.

Camille Naaktgeboren said she carried a backpack throughout her childhood to be prepared to escape if the opportunity arose. She told the committee that she didn’t know where to find help and was abused for 12 years, starting when she was 5.

“I had no idea what to do, and I had no resources,” said Naaktgeboren, a member of Nevadans for the Common Good. “Had I seen a hotline number, or had a teacher told me about this, I may have been spared a few years of trafficking.”

The Associated Press does not typically identify the victims of sexual abuse. But Naaktgeboren — now an adult and a victims’ advocate — came forward publicly with her story to support the proposal.

“This is trying to get at a victim-centered approach,” said James Dold, policy counsel for the Polaris Project, a national anti-trafficking organization based in Washington, D.C. “So we’re not criminalizing, and they know law enforcement officers are on their side and not there to arrest or deport them.”

He added that teachers are often on the “front lines” of trafficking.

Eric Spratley of the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office told committee that the bill was necessary for adequate handling of trafficking in Nevada.

“Our lack of education and awareness in this arena has been a detriment to law enforcement and to our victims,” Spratley said.

There was no testimony against the bill.

No action was taken Wednesday, but there must be a vote by Friday, or the bill will die. The committee is expected to vote on several bills before the deadline.