CARSON CITY — Pimps were put on notice Monday that lawmakers want more severe punishment for those who exploit prostitutes and more ways to free women from their control.
But to accomplish that, the attorney general said the state also needs better mental and emotional help for prostitutes.
“We can pass laws, but if we don’t have treatment (facilities), they can be re-victimized,” Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said. “We not only need funding, but we need professionals to run the institutions. We have a long ways to go. We need treatment for our victims.”
Las Vegas police said that since 1994, they have investigated 2,229 cases involving minor prostitutes controlled by pimps.
Andrea Swanson of Las Vegas said a pimp “groomed and manipulated” her teenage daughter into prostitution.
The daughter met her pimp through school. He spent two and a half years in prison, and they kept in touch.
Today, they are living together.
Because pimps have such control, Swanson said long prison sentences are necessary to reduce the attachment between pimps and prostitutes.
Masto and Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, introduced Assembly Bill 67 to a crowd of about 80 people. The bill replaces the current “pandering” offense with a crime of sexual trafficking designed to increase sentences to up to 20 years against pimps who turn girls into prostitutes.
It also creates an Office of Advocate for Missing or Exploited Children and prevents pimps from delaying preliminary hearings without the consent of prosecutors. Masto said pimps seek delays to threaten girls or their parents into not testifying.
A hearing for the bill has not been scheduled.
Religious leaders and Masto said they are seeking private donations to raise funding for a residential center for victims of sex trafficking but would not announce donors or the amount raised.
“This is the first step,” Masto said about her bill.
Last year, the Rev. Camille Pentzil of Las Vegas discovered her 15-year-old daughter was missing in the middle of the night and traced her to a very expensive apartment rented by a young pimp. Pentzil said that with a lot of parenting, she was able to remove her daughter from his influence.
She suggested parents not punish or become angry but talk to their daughters, warn them of the dangers and visit them and work slowly to turn them around.
No one spoke against bill at the rally, but on the Assembly Bill 67 website one person said that the bill is poorly written and that even a family living off the earnings of a legal prostitute or a husband who has sex with his wife could be charged with crimes.