Lawmaker lobbies for bills to aid child prostitutes

CARSON CITY — Assemblyman John Hambrick on Monday continued to push for ending child prostitution and assisting those who have been victimized by pimps and human trafficking.

“We will be judged very harshly by our creator if we do nothing,” said Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, during a hearing before the Assembly Judiciary Committee on two of his bills. “Some argue that paying for sex is not a crime of violence, but I disagree with you. They will rape our youngsters.”

Hambrick argued for the committee to support his bills, AB240 and 281. One bill would levy assessments against people soliciting for sex, which would be used to create safe houses for minors trapped in prostitution. The assessment would be $500 for a customer of an adult prostitute and $2,500 for the customer of a minor prostitute. The other bill calls for at least a one-year prison sentence for those who solicit prostitutes ages 14 to 17, and a 10-year sentence for those who solicit younger children.

No action was taken on the bill, although witnesses overwhelmingly supported Hambrick’s legislation.

Judiciary Chairman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, expressed repeated concern because the bill would become law before Safe Havens could be opened in Reno and Las Vegas. He said he did not want the young prostitutes to be sent to juvenile detention centers or foster homes because that might have an adverse affect on other children.

During the hearing, public defenders said they have represented prostitutes as young as 10.

Lt. Karen Hughes, of the Las Vegas police vice squad, said her department has arrested 238 underage female prostitutes in the last two years.

“This will send a strong message to people who visit Nevada that our kids are not for sale,” added Hughes about the bills.

Amy Coffee, representing the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice, spoke out against the bill. She said the assumption that all young prostitutes are victims is simply not true.

“Some people voluntarily engage in prostitution,” she said. “Not every prostitute is a victim. Many choose to do it.”

George Flint, the lobbyist with the Nevada Brothel Association, supported the bill. He said the legal brothels in Nevada have nothing to do with the prostitutes and pimps who sell sex on the streets.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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