Human Trafficking Bill: Too Complex to Enforce?

by Angela Chagnon

Rep. Andy Donaghy (R-Poultney)

Rep. Andy Donaghy (R-Poultney) is a former Chief of Detectives with an extensive background in law enforcement and investigation. Donaghy, now a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is s questioning many of the provisions in the is The so-called human trafficking bill (H. 153) being considered by the legislature.

The bill’s statement of purpose reads: “This bill proposes to establish a comprehensive system of criminal penalties and prevention programs for human trafficking, and a program of services for human trafficking victims.”

“We do have statutes on the books adequate to deal with the crime of human trafficking,” said Donaghy, pointing out that Vermont only had one human trafficking case five years ago in Essex Junction, and there were no cases of human servitude on record. “The bill has lots of add-ons and doesn’t appear to be a crime law,” he continued. “It’s more like a victim services bill.”

He said that the bill attempts to address too many other issues like immigration and victim restitution. Tom Trombley, a former Commissioner of Public Safety who is now a consultant for the International Chiefs of Police, testified to the committee that the bill would be very complex legislation to enforce due to the add-ons.

Donaghy also wants a fiscal impact report done on the bill. “There are lots of new responsibilities for law enforcement personnel,” he said. The “new responsibilities” mean that Vermont’s 1,100 law enforcement officers will need to be thoroughly trained to enforce the many new, detailed aspects that will become law if the bill is passed.

The cost for training Vermont’s law enforcement officers and formulating a task force will not be cheap, Donaghy says. Besides this, he is worried that the bill contains many unfunded mandates, and if passed will end up costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is not clear whether the cost of law enforcement training will be borne by the state or by local municipalities.

The legislation is being pushed mainly by the Polaris Project, a group based in Washington D.C. with offices in New Jersey and Japan.