FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A North Dakota senator whose oil-rich state has become a target for child prostitution is sponsoring a bill meant to crack down on all forms of human trafficking.
Sen. Heidi 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.
It's a trend that has alarmed top federal prosecutors from North Dakota and South Dakota.
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.
Heitkamp says many of the victims are hesitant to come forward. Her bill includes a safe harbor provision that gives them protection.