A move to reduce funding for a new sex trafficking investigation unit has one high-profile critic: Alaska First Lady Sandy Parnell.
Parnell appeared in front of the Senate finance committee on Saturday to ask them to reconsider the State Trooper budget. It was her first time testifying before legislators.
Legislators stripped the $827,200 allocation from the governor’s budget because the troopers did not investigate any trafficking crimes last year. The first lady found that reasoning wanting.
“The reason given for cutting the funding, however, is exactly why the funding is needed: Because sex trafficking is a hidden crime that must be unearthed by investigators,” said Parnell. “Its victims do not self-report.”
Parnell added that right now, state troopers have limited experience in recognizing the signs of sex trafficking. She said sex trafficking cases are especially difficult to recognize, and that victims may not even realize what’s happening to them.
“The girls’ identification and cell phones are taken. They are physically threatened and abused,” said Parnell. “And sadly, the girls have bonded with their captors.”
Reducing sex trafficking has been a key issue for both the governor and first lady as part of the “Choose Respect” initiative.
The Senate finance committee is currently reviewing the operating budget and is slated to consider changes to it this week. Money for the sex trafficking unit was included in the House version, and any differences between the two documents will have to be reconciled.