Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved by voice vote the Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act (H.R. 2480). This bill, authored by Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), ensures that state and local governments are able to obtain and use federal law enforcement grant funding for programs that combat human trafficking, including programs aimed at reducing demand for commercial sex.

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions. The JAG Program currently provides states and units of local governments with critical funding necessary to support a range of program areas, including law enforcement; prosecution and court programs; prevention and education programs; corrections and community corrections; drug treatment and enforcement; crime victim and witness initiatives; and mental health programs. Since fighting human trafficking is a top law enforcement priority, the Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act adds a category for programs that combat human trafficking and address demand reduction.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Representative Hartzler issued the following statements on today’s Committee action to fight human trafficking.

Chairman Goodlatte: “Every life matters and has inherent worth, and we must do all we can to fight human trafficking. The Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act ensures that state and local law enforcement officials have access to additional tools needed to fight this heinous crime in their communities. I thank Congresswoman Hartzler for her work to fight human trafficking and look forward to her bill being voted on by the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.”

Rep. Hartzler: “Sex trafficking crimes are a rising epidemic in America, but our federal grant system has not kept pace with the seriousness of this issue. We must empower our police in fighting this nationwide epidemic. When the law enforcement community says there is an opportunity to rescue sex slavery victims — which sadly includes children — then there is no excuse for ignoring it. With the Empowering Law Enforcement to Fight Sex Trafficking Demand Act, we have an opportunity to rescue countless lives from the sex trafficking industry and move one step closer to ending this evil forever.”

For more on the House Judiciary Committee’s work to combat child exploitation and human trafficking, click here.

Watch a video on the Committee’s work here.