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Safeguarding Our Children – The Urgent Need For School Zone Restrictions Related To Human Trafficking

Heidi Chance, a 25-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, dedicated her career to combatting sex trafficking, notably serving 13 years in the H.E.A.T (Human Exploitation and Trafficking) Unit.

 
Executive Contributor Heidi Chance

The issue of Human Trafficking, more specifically Sex Trafficking and its associated activities near schools is an alarming concern for parents, educators, and communities. The idea of creating school zones with strict regulations against prostitution is gaining traction as a crucial step to protect students from indecent exposure, solicitations, and other illicit activities. This article delves into the necessity of school zone Sex Trafficking restrictions, examining the impact of this crime occurring near educational institutions, the potential benefits of such regulations, and the importance of community involvement in safeguarding our children.

 

A little girl protects herself with her palm and covers her face

The problem at hand

Sex Trafficking happening near schools poses significant risks to the safety and well-being of students. The presence of prostituted persons, pimps, and sex buyers in close proximity to educational institutions exposes children to inappropriate and potentially dangerous situations. These risks include:


Indecent exposure

Students may inadvertently witness explicit sexual acts or other indecent behaviors, which can be psychologically damaging and inappropriate for their developmental stage.


Solicitation

Children can be directly approached by sex buyers or traffickers, leading to uncomfortable and potentially harmful encounters.


Normalizing illicit activities

The visible presence of Sex Trafficking happening near schools can desensitize students to illegal activities, potentially normalizing such behaviors and undermining the moral and ethical lessons taught at home and in the classroom.


Safety risks

The influx of individuals involved in becoming victims of Sex Trafficking can increase the likelihood of criminal activities, such as drug dealing, and violence, further compromising the safety of the school environment.

 

Community involvement and advocacy

The success of school zone Sex Trafficking restrictions depends heavily on community involvement and advocacy. Parents, educators, and concerned citizens must take an active role in promoting and supporting these measures. Key steps for community involvement include:


Raising awareness

Educating the community about the dangers of Sex Trafficking occurring near schools and the importance of school zone restrictions is crucial. Hosting informational sessions, distributing educational materials, and leveraging social media can help spread the message.


Engaging with lawmakers

Community members should actively engage with local, state, and federal lawmakers to advocate for school zone restrictions much like what exists today in some cities and towns that have weapon-free school zones. Writing letters, attending town hall meetings, and participating in advocacy groups can influence legislative action.


Supporting law enforcement

Collaboration between the community and law enforcement is essential for effective enforcement of school zone Sex Trafficking restrictions. Establishing positive relationships with local police and supporting their efforts can enhance the overall success of these measures.


As a detective working in an area of town where a college was located, I experienced several calls for service where students were harassed, solicited, and repeatedly approached by sex buyers and traffickers. The campus was located in a high-volume area for prostitution activities. These students were merely trying to travel from class to their place of residence or even at times when they would leave the campus to go and get lunch. These interactions with buyers and traffickers posed the same risks mentioned above; these students were adults.


In this same area, I had one investigation where the female who was “working” the corner was doing so right in front of an elementary school playground. There were at least 4 times where she was arrested for committing acts of indecent exposure.


The fact that she was arrested repeatedly and returned to the same location was later found to be due to the direction she received from her trafficker who was “managing” her from a front business directly across the street from the school. After many complaints and many months of investigation, a search warrant was executed at the business and the suspects were arrested. However, earlier in the investigation had we been able to add additional school zone type restriction charges, then the further subsequent arrests and further exposures that the school and community may have been prevented.


Successful examples and case studies

Several cities and states have implemented successful school zone prostitution restrictions, providing valuable insights and lessons for other communities. For example:


Seattle, Washington

In Seattle, strict school zone prostitution restrictions have been enforced, leading to a significant reduction in prostitution-related activities near schools. The city's comprehensive approach includes collaboration between law enforcement, schools, and community organizations. Washington State Legislature passed House Bill 1385 in 2009, which enhanced penalties for prostitution-related activities occurring within 1,000 feet of schools.


Las Vegas, Nevada

Known for its challenges with prostitution, Las Vegas has taken proactive measures to protect students by establishing designated school zones with strict penalties for prostitution-related activities. These efforts have been bolstered by community advocacy and strong legislative support. Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 201.354 outlines enhanced penalties for soliciting prostitution near schools, parks, and other locations frequented by minors.


Houston, Texas

Houston has implemented a multi-faceted approach to combat prostitution near schools, including increased law enforcement presence, community education, and support services for at-risk youth. The city's efforts have resulted in a safer environment for students. Texas House Bill 8, passed in 2017, increased penalties for trafficking and prostitution offenses committed within 1,000 feet of schools.


Specifically, the organization "No Trafficking Zone" aims to protect students by imposing harsher penalties for offenses near schools and during school functions. Offenders contacting, arranging meetings, or picking up students within the designated zone will face enhanced charges, including the use of technology for school-hour pickups. Visit Notraffickingzone.org to support this organization and its efforts to expand what they are doing in other states.

 

The path forward

While school zone prostitution restrictions are a crucial step in protecting students, they must be part of a broader strategy to address the root causes of prostitution and exploitation. Efforts to combat human trafficking, provide support services for sex workers, and address economic and social inequalities are essential components of this strategy.


Communities must remain vigilant and committed to protecting their most vulnerable members—children. By working together, advocating for legislative action, and supporting law enforcement efforts, we can create safer environments for students and uphold the values of safety, integrity, and respect.


As parents, educators, and concerned citizens, we must take an active role in promoting these measures and advocating for legislative action. By raising awareness, engaging with lawmakers, supporting law enforcement, and creating safe spaces for students, we can make a tangible impact in the fight against prostitution and exploitation.


A large part of the missing puzzle of awareness is education and prevention provided to our youth about the digital dangers they are facing. That is why I wrote my book Talk to Them. This book is a vital resource for parents and mentors striving to navigate the complexities of the digital age and engage in impactful conversations with the younger generation.


Talk to Them is a blend of actionable strategies, personal anecdotes, and expert analysis aimed at fostering open communication to equip our youth and ensure safety online. It's designed for parents, educators, law enforcement, and mentors who seek to understand and navigate digital challenges, offering a comprehensive approach to building trust, initiating difficult conversations, and empowering young individuals with resilience and wisdom in an ever-connected world.


Together, we can ensure that our schools remain safe havens for learning and growth, free from the dangers and distractions of prostitution. Our children deserve nothing less.

 

For more information about Human Trafficking and awareness visit achanceforawareness.com and pick up your copy of Talk to Them available on Amazon.


Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

 

Heidi Chance, a 25-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, dedicated her career to combatting sex trafficking, notably serving 13 years in the H.E.A.T (Human Exploitation and Trafficking) Unit. As an expert in forensic child interviews, abuse identification, online child protection, and undercover operations, she's a sought-after speaker, addressing law enforcement and many conferences. Heidi is featured in the PBS documentary "Sex Trafficking in America" and now uses her platform at Achanceforawareness.com to raise public awareness and provide training and consulting services to law enforcement, contributing to the fight against sex trafficking.


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