By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado recognized Labor Day this year with a new law aimed at ending slave labor.
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman pushed for the law that allows law enforcement to use wiretaps in sex and labor trafficking investigations, where children especially are unable or unwilling to come forward.
“These folks hide the children that they are trafficking and the work that they are doing and kids are vulnerable victims. They’re afraid to come forward and report so if we can get a wiretap in a case where we suspect trafficking, we can get the words of the perpetrator. We can understand the intent — that this is exactly what they meant to do. They were trading children and sex, often times for drugs or for money, and it also sometimes alleviates the need for kids to be witnesses in these cases,” Coffman said.
The law is one of three the Colorado Legislature passed this year to crack down on human trafficking. Those laws — and a record number of prosecutions here — have made Colorado a model not just for other states, but other countries.
When the United Nations held its Convention On The Rights Of The Child in Geneva this year, Coffman was the only state official invited to participate.
“Human trafficking is an area I’ve focused on,” Coffman says, “It’s about protecting our most vulnerable victims.”
She and other attorney generals also recently sent a letter to Congress, urging it to amend a law that allows online ads by human traffickers.
“As we’ve become more aware, as a country, of trafficking within our borders, the AGs — and certainly I — have become more active in understanding what’s happening and closing legal loopholes so that we can prosecute these folks and get the maximum sentence and get them off the street.”
Coffman says most human trafficking victims in Colorado are U.S. citizens, not foreign nationals, and she says law enforcement alone can’t stop the crime.
“I encourage people where they see a situation where they just think things don’t add up, whether it’s the family down the street or a daughter’s classmate at school or a business they go into. We have good instincts and we have to trust our gut and report those to law enforcement. To me those are the worst of the worst people and I want to lock them up. I don’t want them doing this in Colorado,” Coffman said.
Other laws passed this year require anyone convicted of child sex trafficking to serve a minimum of eight years in prison and expand the definition of human trafficking to include people who facilitate the crime by providing transportation or housing.