(NASHVILLE, TN), June 29 , 2015 — July 1 marks the effective date of major laws enacted this past legislative session to keep Tennessee on the forefront of the nationwide campaign to fight human trafficking.
“We have made major improvements since 2011 to address human trafficking and continue to lead the nation in these efforts,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), who has sponsored numerous bills with Representative Jim Coley (R-Bartlett) cracking down on human traffickers. “These new laws build upon our past efforts on human trafficking and give law enforcement agencies the resources they need to identify and prosecute this despicable crime.”
New laws regarding human trafficking taking effect Wednesday, July 1, will:
• provide four additional TBI special agents to train law enforcement and other officials in identifying, investigating and prosecuting human trafficking. These special agents will also train first responders and caseworkers to find services and assist human trafficking victims.
• extend the statute of limitations to 25 years for prosecution of “promoting prostitution of minors.”
• allow law enforcement to utilize wiretaps to investigate commercial human trafficking.
These new laws are in addition to legislation that took effect in April to allow a juvenile caught in the sex trade to be sent to a shelter care facility to provide for their safe release to a parent or legal guardian.
The new human trafficking laws continue progress the state has made over the past four years after a 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) report showing incidents of the crime in 73 of 95 Tennessee counties. The resulting legislative efforts won Tennessee national acclaim, including a #1 national ranking by Shared Hope International’s 2013 Protected Innocence Challenge.
July 1 also marks enactment of the state budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year which contains funds for three new forensic scientists at the TBI to process rape kits at no charge to local law enforcement. In May, officials announced that more than half of the 12,000 backlogged rape evidence kits in Memphis had not been tested or were at labs awaiting analysis.
Legislation Kelsey co-sponsored with Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) ensures future sexual assault kits will be tested and stored in a timely manner. That law took effect in April.
“We still have much work to do to get these kits processed so that justice can be served for victims of rape,” added Kelsey. “Funding these positions is very important to complete this backlog.”