COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Stiffer penalties for prostitution was a top priority in Georgia’s recent legislative session.
Governor Brian Kemp signed new sex trafficking laws into place.
If you engage in sex trafficking, it is now a felony charge, according to the law in Georgia. Offenders could face up to 25 to life behind bars if convicted.
According to Micah’s Promise, each month, an estimated 500 girls are involved in sex trafficking across the state of Georgia. But with new laws on the books, effective July 1, offenders who also engage in prostitution could pay a higher cost.
“If they go to a known prostitute area and attempt to solicit a prostitute, they have to do a mandatory 72 hours in jail,” -aid Bobbi Starr with Micah’s Promise.
Another new component of the law:
In the past, children found engaging in prostitution were treated like criminals. Now anyone 18 or under must be treated like a victim.
“We need to make sure all of our law enforcement understand that when they come across those situations, in the past, they might have arrested a child. They now have to treat that child like a victim of a crime,” said Starr.
She said police will need to call the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). DFACS must provide therapeutic care for the children.
Micah’s Promise also wants city employees to be trained on how to recognize child abuse.
“We will bring it to them. It’s free and it will increase the safety of our kids in our community,”said Starr.
Starr said with the new laws she hopes victims know there are advocates out there and people who care.
“I see a change coming that they are going to start to understand---wait a minute, this wasn’t because I didn’t have any other worth, this is because somebody decided to use me and take advantage of things that were vulnerability,” said Starr.
Micah’s Promise has already presented the training idea to Columbus City Council.
Starr said a city grant is already in place for their Steward for Children training program.
She’s just waiting to hear back from city leaders.