WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The United States has made significant progress in tackling trafficking with most states adopting anti-trafficking legislation, and all 50 states making trafficking a crime for the first time, a report said.
In the past year, 39 states passed new laws to fight sex and labour trafficking, global anti-slavery group, the Polaris Project, said in its annual survey.
As of July 31 this year, 32 states received its top ranking for having adopted robust laws that give law enforcement officers and prosecutors strong tools to stop trafficking and state agencies the resources needed to help survivors. Last year, 21 states were given the Tier 1 status.
Washington State and New Jersey became the first states to receive gold stars from Polaris for enacting all of its recommended measures.
"We've witnessed a historic turning point now that all 50 states have passed laws criminalizing human trafficking," CEO of Polaris Project Bradley Myles said in a statement.
"However, criminals are trafficking women, men and children from coast to coast at horrendous rates."
South Dakota was ranked bottom by Polaris for no minimal effort to pass a basic legislative framework to combat trafficking.
In its latest Trafficking in Persons report, the U.S. State Department said as many as 27 million men, women and children are estimated to be trafficking victims at any given time.
Polaris said hundreds of thousands of victims were in the United States, forced to provide commercial sex, labour, or services against their will.
Polaris' National Human Trafficking hotline received 20,000 calls in 2012, and by August this year it had almost topped that number, spokeswoman Megan Fowler said. The most calls for help came from California, followed by Texas.
Since its policy team was set up in 2004, Polaris Project has contributed to the passage of over 100 anti-trafficking bills at the state level, including 15 bills in 2013.
Its annual ratings assess laws in 10 categories and were based on legislation enacted by state legislatures by July 31, 2013.