MISSOURI (KFVS) - Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has announced new regulations that aim to target traffickers.
According to the International Labor Organization, over 4.5 million people are trapped in commercial sex exploitation around the world. The majority of those victims are female.
A statewide Anti-Trafficking Task Force was established by Hawley's office. That task force will be chaired by the Attorney General. according to Hawley, elected prosecutors, police and sheriffs, along with leaders in the nonprofit sector will work together to coordinate law enforcement and victim-relief efforts across the state.
Hawley said he will make using a business as a front for trafficking illegal.
"This is a favorite tactic of traffickers. They hide behind what appear to be legitimate businesses like nail salons or bars or massage parlors. Not anymore in Missouri," said Hawley. "Under today's regulations, if traffickers attempt to use a business in Missouri to mask their criminal enterprise, we will shut them down. And we will hold them personally liable, with both civil and criminal penalties. That goes for anyone involved in the traffickers' enterprise."
We talked to Poplar Bluff Police Chief Danny Whiteley on Monday, April 3.
"This has been an eye-opening experience for me on human trafficking in our country, Missouri and southeast Missouri, especially," he said. "This is outside-the-box thinking by Attorney General Josh Howley, and I believe this will make a huge difference in the fight against human trafficking in Missouri."
If you believe you have witnessed trafficking or forced sexual exploitation, you should call 1-844-487-0492.