Trenton – Taking action to prevent human trafficking and raise awareness of the issue, Governor Chris Christie today signed the bipartisan “Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act” to strengthen state law by increasing penalties for and providing resources to prevent human trafficking in New Jersey. The legislation is a comprehensive update and expansion to state law and creates the Commission on Human Trafficking to review laws and enforcement and make recommendations to state policy makers; establishes a ‘Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund’ to provide victims’ services, promote awareness, and develop training and educational materials; and increases both financial penalties and prison time for those who traffic individuals.

Coupled with the measure, the Governor also signed bills designating each January as “Human Trafficking Prevention Month” and January 11th as “Human Trafficking Awareness Day.”

“As public officials, we have a solemn responsibility to prevent and protect citizens from the dark world of human trafficking,” said Governor Christie. “This comprehensive and bipartisan approach strengthens and expands the state’s ongoing efforts to aggressively combat this brutal practice, and also ensures that the victims of human trafficking receive the treatment they need. This bill is a big step forward toward protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, and I am proud to sign it into law.”

Last year, the Christie Administration, through the Attorney General’s Office, made fighting human trafficking a top priority, creating a new Human Trafficking Unit and issuing a statewide law enforcement directive to increase prosecutions of human trafficking and rescue victims. Under Attorney General Chiesa’s leadership, the new unit has already made significant arrests. According to the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, 179 cases of human trafficking were reported to the Division between September 2005 and March 2012. They included 93 victims trafficked for labor, 60 for sex, and 26 for both labor and sex trafficking.

Also, in taking action on additional pending legislation, Governor Christie sought to properly balance protecting the privacy of employees and job candidates and an employer’s ability to appropriately screen job candidates, manage their personnel, and protect their business assets and proprietary information by returning A-2878 to the Legislature with recommendations to enhance the measure.