New Laws Beef Up Sex Trafficking Penalties - 8 News NOW

New Laws Beef Up Sex Trafficking Penalties

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LAS VEGAS -- New state laws are giving police officers more tools to crack down on the sex trafficking trade in Las Vegas.

At the current rate, Nevada will have more sex trafficking victims this year than last.

Since the new laws were enacted recently by Gov. Brian Sandoval, sex traffickers face a long stint in prison if they get caught and convicted.

Sex trafficking victims have an ally in Metro Lt. Karen Hughes, of the police department's vice section.

"It'll send a screaming message to bad guys: We're not going to mess around," Hughes said.

Hughes was one of many pushing for the new laws.

"They're going to be spending life in prison, depending on the age of that kid," she said.

The new laws define sex trafficking and do away with the pandering charge that was used before.

Hughes said the change was needed.

Douglas Warenback, 54, of California, pleaded guilty this week to pandering a child. He was charged with bringing a 16-year-old girl to Las Vegas for sex.

Back in September, police found him with the victim in a car at the Paris hotel. He claimed she was his girlfriend, but police later found out she had been reported as a runaway.

"We are a tourist destination, so pimps are going to bring girls here," Hughes said.

The majority of victims are local teenagers and children.

Rebeca Ferreira, executive director of Safe Faith United, a domestic violence nonprofit, helps sex trafficking victims.

The new laws allocate money to help victims with housing, therapy and other methods of recovery.

"They feel sad, they feel worthless and most of the pain of the feeling that the victim experience cause them nightmares," Ferreira said. "They're our girls, they are our kids, they are our daughters, they are our nieces. It takes a lot of time for a victim to heal."

She said the healing process depends on the damage and how long they suffered .

For Hughes, these laws give victims and would-be victims a fighting chance.

"Our kids can't be for sale," Hughes said. "They just can't be."

From 1994 to 2012, there were 2,229 minor victims. In 2011 and 2012, the total was 238 minor victims.

The ages of most victims range from 15 to 18 years old. The youngest on record is 13 years old.

Also, 61 percent are African-American, 23 percent are Caucasian, 11 percent are Hispanic and 3 percent are Asian or another ethnicity.

The laws also make it possible to get harsher penalties for sex trafficking customers.

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