Gov. Brewer hails work of sex trafficking panel

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday praised the work of a sex trafficking task force she set up 18 months ago, saying the panel has helped make Arizona a model for tackling what she called a cancer that victimizes teenage girls and young women.

Brewer addressed the Governor's Task Force on Human Trafficking for the last time as governor, saying its efforts have been rapid and successful.

"I've been in government for a long time, but I've never seen a working group come together so quickly and have such a dramatic effect," Brewer told the members.

The panel proposed sweeping legislation designed to curb human trafficking. The law toughens penalties for trafficking adults for prostitution and targets businesses advertising shady services online. Brewer signed it into law in April.

The group also recommended new training for police officers and others that is now being implemented. New police officers are learning how to identify sex trafficking and get help for women involved, while existing officers are being offered training on trafficking as part of their yearly education requirements.

The state also launched a new sex trafficking website Thursday, www.endsextrafficking.az.gov, that includes links to resources for training, news and victim's services.

The panel is co-chaired by Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain. She said Arizona has made huge strides and now needs to focus on victims and victim's services. She said she has spoken to both major party candidates for governor about completing her work.

"We have come a long way, but we have a long ways to go," McCain said. "When 100,000 new children are trafficked every year in the United States, on top of the 300,000 already trafficked, we have a real problem."

Brewer said she is proud of the work.

"It's been a cancer that has been consuming our state and the United States for years, and people would just turn a blind eye," Brewer said after the meeting. "I don't think people really understood there were victims involved. Now there's going to be a public awareness. They're going to know they have resources to go to, and there's going to be education to put an end to this."

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