Nebraska lawmakers gave second-round approval April 6 to a bill that combats human trafficking through the display of human trafficking informational posters in casinos.
Last November, the voters of Nebraska passed three ballot initiatives allowing for expanded gambling. Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln introduced LB461, which would ensure casinos are included in a statutory requirement for displaying the posters.
“Clearly, law enforcement routinely recognizes that casinos are hubs for human trafficking so it is especially important to make sure that these new establishments are among those required to post these signs,” Pansing Brooks said.
The posters would include helpful information and phone numbers for assistance, like the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The hotline reported 237 contacts from Nebraska in 2019.
Human trafficking is an umbrella term when force, fraud or coercion are used to obtain a person for labor, services or sexual acts.
Bill co-sponsor Sen. Julie Slama of Peru said Pansing Brooks’ bill is a step in the right direction to end human trafficking in Nebraska.
“She has truly been a champion for this issue,” Slama said. “And as someone who served with her on the Judiciary Committee and studied this topic for a few years now myself, her work has really saved lives in this state.”
Current law requires the placement of human trafficking posters at Nebraska rest stops and strip clubs. The Department of Labor works with the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force to develop and place informational posters around the state.
The task force was created in 2015 and consists of law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates, providers and community partners, overseen by the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office. Its goals are to find human trafficking in Nebraska, stop traffickers and recognize each victim.
In the 2020 task force’s report, Nebraska saw an increase in human trafficking cases with 57 new statewide prosecutions. The number was 33 the year prior.
Since 2006, more than 10 bills passed in the Legislature related to human trafficking, which strengthened law enforcement’s ability to prosecute and convict human trafficking crimes in Nebraska.
In addition to Slama, Sens. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln and Tom Brewer of Gordon co-sponsored the bill.
“This bill is important to Nebraskans because awareness needs to be higher about what the signs of human trafficking are,” Brewer said. “Interstate 80 running through Nebraska is one of the most trafficked interstates in the nation. We must do what we can to keep Nebraskans safe from trafficking and be sure people know the signs of human trafficking.”
The Omaha Women’s Fund 2015 report showed I-80 and I-29 are included in a regional trafficking network. Activity can be increased during sporting events like the College World Series.
“These awareness efforts work hand in hand with the other successful legislation,” Pansing Brooks said. “It is thanks to this work that we have all done together in the Nebraska Legislature since 2015 that Nebraska has moved from an ‘F’ rating to an ‘A’ rating by the National Human Trafficking group, Polaris.”
Madeline Walker, human trafficking program coordinator for the Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, said she is grateful for the Legislature’s continued attention to the issue of human trafficking.
“LB461 creates another opportunity to provide information about human trafficking to the public,” Walker said. “Making information about human trafficking and resources available to survivors widely accessible helps to remove barriers that a survivor may face when seeking services.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 ot text 233733.