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Lawmakers target human trafficking

Wisconsin State Capitol (WLUK/Courtney Ryan)

APPLETON (WLUK) -- If you don't think human trafficking is real, Appleton police say think again.

"It's really prevalent," said Sgt. Dave Lund from the Appleton Police Department.

Lund says over the last few years, officers have started to realize how often human trafficking is involved in prostitution.

"It's not a victimless crime," he said.

Appleton police say as much as half of the people caught soliciting a prostitute are repeat offenders.

"It doesn't take us very long if we're setting up a sting operation to have people soliciting," Lund said.

Wisconsin lawmakers are now targeting those who get caught for soliciting prostitution.

"If we want to make sure people understand how important this issue is, it's important that our laws reflect that," said State Rep. Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton).

"It's something that's going to send a strong signal," said State Rep. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere).

There are two separate bills that would address the issue. Both bills would strengthen the penalties for people who solicit prostitution.

Stuck's bill targets repeat offenders, by making a third offense for solicitation a felony with a possible penalty of up to three and a half years in prison.

Right now, it's a misdemeanor.

"It would give more teeth to the law right now, have more consequences for the people engaging in this activity and hopefully reduce seeing those people over and over again, " Stuck said.

Under Jacque's bill, the state would create a $5,000 surcharge for anyone convicted of soliciting a prostitute or keeping a place of prostitution.

The money would be split between services for sex trafficking victims and investigative operations for police.

"This higher surcharge is not only going to serve as a deterrent but it's going to basically send those resources to where we need them most," Jacque said.

"I think this is a step in the right direction," Lund said of the bills. But he adds, there's no silver bullet that will solve the issue for good.

Jacque and Stuck are hoping to formally introduce the bills later this session. Both proposals already have bipartisan support

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