LITTLE ROCK — A report containing 19 recommendations for addressing human trafficking in Arkansas received a warm reception from a legislative subcommittee Wednesday.

LITTLE ROCK — A report containing 19 recommendations for addressing human trafficking in Arkansas received a warm reception from a legislative subcommittee Wednesday.


"The capital investment and the inconvenience investment is so minor (compared) to the good that we could do for these victims. I don’t see myself not completely on board with trying to do what we can to implement these in the next session," Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, co-chairman of the Children and Youth Subcommittee, said of the recommendations.


The 40-member Attorney General’s State Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking released the report last month. On Wednesday, several members of the task force appeared before the Children and Youth Subcommittee to discuss it.


The recommendations include adding two employees at the attorney general’s office who would be responsible for routing human-trafficking calls to the appropriate agencies; tracking data on calls received; helping police departments and sheriff’s offices form regional task forces; and functioning as a liaison between the attorney general’s office and the task forces.


Assistant Attorney General Will Jones, co-chairman of the task force, testified that the recommendation did not originate with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel.


"It was not a situation where the attorney general was trying to angle for any additional employees," he said.


The task force also recommended creating a state board on human trafficking with members appointed by the governor and at least one paid staff person, or alternatively, adding three to five members and at least one paid staff person to the state Commission on Child Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence.


Other recommendations include creating a new state license to regulate any agency that works with human-trafficking victims; creating a pilot program to educate people convicted of soliciting the services of a prostitute, sometimes known as a "Johns school"; and creating a court program, at an annual cost of about $3.3 million, that would provide services to juvenile human-trafficking victims as an alternative to charging them with a crime.


Jones said law enforcement agencies sometimes charge a juvenile human-trafficking victim because it is the only way to ensure that "they’d have somewhere to go that night to lay their head on a pillow."


"This was one of the primary issues going in," he said. "We realized that we’ve got a population of victims here that we don’t have services for. That’s unacceptable."


The task force also recommended providing training to law enforcement officials, court officials, Department of Human Services case workers and others who come in contact with human trafficking victims and offenders. The total annual cost of the proposed training is estimated at a little less than $100,000.


Other recommendations include making human trafficking an offense requiring registration as a sex offender; requiring an annual statewide survey of law enforcement agencies and service providers to gather data on human trafficking; and adding rest stops, elementary schools, public campgrounds, restaurants, hotels and motels to the list of places where the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline number, (888) 373-7888, must be posted.


A current state law requires the hotline number to be posted at bus stations, train stations and strip clubs, among other places. Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, said the list would have been longer, but lawmakers experienced "push back" from some businesses’ public relations directors.


"That’s too bad," said Rep. Justin Harris, R-West Fork, co-chairman of the committee. "If you’re the victim you’d want that phone number, so our PR people can just — I’ll be nicer than that. We should be able to post the signs (if) it’s a public area."