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Associated Press, Published November 30 2013

Sen. Heitkamp sponsors bill targeting human trafficking

FARGO — Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND, is sponsoring a bill meant to crack down on all forms of human trafficking.

Heitkamp says the Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act would encourage law enforcement officers and the courts to treat minors who are sold for sex as victims, not as criminals.

Recent online prostitution stings in western North Dakota have netted 15 arrests in the Dickinson and Williston areas. Two men in South Dakota have received life sentences for human trafficking cases in Sioux Falls.

It's a trend that has alarmed top federal prosecutors from North Dakota and South Dakota.

Heitkamp says many of the victims are hesitant to come forward. Her bill includes a safe harbor provision that gives them protection.