Updated: 01/18/2014 6:11 PM
Created: 01/18/2014 5:26 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
A Minnesota law treats sex trafficked minors as victims rather than criminals and it is helping Northland leaders fight the problem. In Duluth on Saturday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar pushed to spread that law nationwide.
Senator Klobuchar was a prosecutor herself, and said she knows how minors forced into the sex trade have been punished by the legal system. However, Duluth and St. Louis County leaders said the safe harbor law in Minnesota allows minors to be treated as victims instead of criminals.
Klobuchar met with those leaders at Life House in Duluth on Saturday. The drop in center for homeless youth recently received a $200,000 state grant to help the young victims escape exploitation.
During the press conference, Klobuchar said sex trafficking of minors is a national problem. She said the crime's prevalence has been highlighted in recent years by online advertisements selling young girls as Super Bowl specials.
“Because the Super Bowl is always one of the great American events, but it's also, sadly, an event that can attract perpetrators and people that are selling young kids for sex,” Klobuchar said.
She said the crime will be fought on a local level, and safe harbor laws are necessary to combat it. St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin agreed saying victims need to feel the law can help them.
“We want that victim to know that there is community support and that we're going to do the best job possible if she or he is willing to step forward,” Rubin said.
Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay also spoke at the conference. He said research shows teenage victims often come from troubled situations.
“We now know today that about 65 percent of all runaways are trafficked sexually somehow,” Ramsay said.
He said that has led to changes in law enforcement to reflect the idea of safe harbor for victims.
Klobuchar hopes the approach that is working in the Northland can spread nationwide. She sponsored the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act that would push states to adopt safe harbor laws or face cuts to federal law enforcement funding. She said the bill has bipartisan support.
Group Aims to Spread the Love to Service Members Overseas
'Tis the season to give and a group of women in northwestern Wisconsin is spreading the love to our service members overseas. They need the public's help to fill 300 boxes before Christmas.
1 Killed, 3 Injured in Alborn Township Rollover
A rollover in Alborn Township turned fatal early Thursday morning. A 48-year-old Shoreview woman was killed in the crash. Officials say her name is being withheld until her family is notified.
Low Gas Prices, Fair Weather Means Smooth Thanksgiving Travel in Northland
The day before Thanksgiving is widely known as the busiest travel day of the year. Travelers were hitting the roads to spend the holiday with friends and family. In addition, gas prices are at the lowest levels of the year
Volunteers Prepare Huge DECC Thanksgiving Feast
Volunteers are preparing 2,400 pounds of turkey, 2,000 pounds of stuffing, and all the other fixings for the DECC's annual Turkey Day feast. It's a chance for hundreds of volunteers to give back.
Duluth Students Collect Thanksgiving Donations for CHUM
Students at St. Michael's School in Duluth have been collecting donations for a Thanksgiving food drive, and on Wednesday they took their donations to CHUM.