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DES MOINES — Lawmakers sent Gov. Branstad legislation Wednesday creating a central point of contact for efforts to combat sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Senate File 2191, approved 98-0 by the House Wednesday and 50-0 by the Senate last month, would create an Office to Combat Human Trafficking within the Department of Public Safety. It would coordinate with state and local law enforcement agencies to address what floor manager Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, called the “dark underworld” of human trafficking.

The office would consult with both governmental and non-governmental agencies that have expertise in human trafficking prevention, victim protection, law enforcement and prosecution, Nunn said. It also will collect and maintain criminal history data on human trafficking crimes.

He said thousands of Iowans as young as 11 years of age are victimized by human traffickers every year.

Officers are being trained to deal with trafficking, one lawmaker said. Worthan, R-Storm Lake, warned that lawmakers have added more duties and responsibilities to the DPS, which has struggled to retain its staffing during lean budget years.

Also, he said, that despite the Legislature earmarking funds for the state Department of Justice to train law enforcement and others to recognize human trafficking, no training has occurred in almost a year.

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The Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, however, is training officers, Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, said.

Nunn credits Rep. Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, and Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, for getting the legislation written and passed.

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Comments 319-398-8375; James.Lynch@TheGazette.com

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