Child prostitution target of bill sent to Gibbons

CARSON CITY -- Pimps who lure children into prostitution would lose their personal assets and be fined as much as $500,000 under a bill that won unanimous approval Monday in the Senate.

Assembly Bill 380 has already cleared the Assembly and now goes to Gov. Jim Gibbons for his signature.

"This shows we really mean business," said Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas.

Hambrick, a former law enforcement officer, introduced the bill because of the number of teenage girls who end up as prostitutes in Clark County.

Under the bill, the assets of those charged with pimping children would be frozen upon arrest and confiscated upon conviction. Convicted pimps also would be fined as much as $100,000 for using children ages 14 to 18 as prostitutes. The fine for sexually exploiting children under age 14 would be $500,000.

Funds confiscated from these panderers would be used by counties for programs to prevent teenage prostitution.

During a hearing, witnesses said there are no facilities in Nevada to care for sexually exploited children and that teen prostitutes often return to their pimps.

Las Vegas police said they investigated 150 cases of teen prostitution last year and about 50 in the first quarter of 2009.

Clark County District Judge William Voy said he has seen children as young as 12 "being pimped out by criminals."

Some are detained in jail briefly to see whether they will turn against their pimp; others are sent to juvenile detention, foster homes or group homes. Typically, they run away again and return to prostitution.

What they don't receive -- and need -- is adequate psychological help in a secure setting, Voy said.

Voy and other juvenile justice advocates have tried unsuccessfully to find the $800,000 it would cost to build and staff a 14-bed safe house for sexually exploited children. Through Hambrick's bill, they now may have found that money.