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To increase penalties for human trafficking, Gov. Bill Richardson signed Senate Bill 71 Friday. The governor called the bill one of the most important pieces of criminal legislation in 2008’s 30-day session.“Human trafficking must be outlawed – human beings should not be treated as property and detained against their will,” Richardson said in a news release.Senate Bill 71 elevates engaging in human trafficking to a felony offense. The bill makes it a third-degree felony to traffic a person 16 or older, a second-degree felony if the victim is 13-15 years old and a first-degree felony if the victim is 12 years old or younger. Along with establishing penalties, a task force will be created to research and combat human trafficking in New Mexico, Richardson said.Los Alamos Police Det. DeWayne Williams, who has been with the department for 13 years, said he is not aware of human trafficking taking place in Los Alamos County. “The smuggling takes place at the border and once illegal aliens get inland a ways, they get into cars and just drive up to Los Alamos,” Williams said.In other parts of the state, Williams said he has no doubt human trafficking goes on. “It’s a very lucrative business,” he said. “I think it’s great Gov. Richardson signed this bill increasing the penalties for those committing this crime because there’s got to be some kind of negative consequence for them not to do this. These people aren’t risking their freedom because they have any kind of feeling to help (the illegals). They’re doing it because it’s a business in which they make a lot of money.”Some 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year and millions more are trafficked within their own countries to be indentured servants, forced farm laborers or worse, according to information found on the U.S. Department of State website.The site shows existing legislation and law enforcement in the United States and other countries are inadequate to deter trafficking and bring traffickers to justice, failing to reflect the gravity of the offenses involved.“No comprehensive law exists in the United States that penalizes the range of offenses involved in the trafficking scheme,” according to the website. “Instead, even the most brutal instances of trafficking in the sex industry are often punished under laws that also apply to lesser offenses, so that traffickers typically escape deserved punishment.”In some countries, the site states, enforcement against traffickers also is hindered by official indifference, corruption and sometimes even official participation in trafficking.People are coerced into indentured servitude or bonded labor, bought and sold into prostitution, domestic servitude or farm labor and captured to serve as child soldiers.Some 80 percent of transnational victims are female and trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation, according to the site, and up to 50 percent of victims are minors.The State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, with a staff of 31 people, has been in operation since November 2001.The office emphasizes what it calls “the three P’s”:• Prosecuting traffickers;• protecting and assisting victims; and• preventing trafficking from occurring or continuing.Its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report ranks 164 countries into one of four categories including Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3 based on their compliance with the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking. Much of the report’s information is collected during on-the-ground visits by office representatives, who venture into isolated regions to uncover hidden routes and trafficking tactics.Advancements made in part because of the report include the following:• Cambodia shut down a red-light district where 10-year-olds were openly sold and prostituted, and “cheap girls” were advertised on the Internet;• Japan slashed the number of entertainment visas issued to certified Filipina dancers, singers or other entertainers because traffickers were forcing many of these women into prostitution;• The United Arab Emirates eliminated the exploitation of South Asian boys as camel-racing jockeys and paid for the repatriation of more than 1,000 boys to their home countries;• Jamaica pledged to step up prosecutions of traffickers this year;• Saudi Arabia said it intended to adopt the 2000 U.N. Trafficking in Persons Protocol; and• Taiwan vowed to strengthen its antitrafficking laws.