BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - As the number of local cases of sex trafficking grows, state lawmakers are weighing a new way to combat the problem: money.
New legislation in Madison would create a hefty surcharge for convicted traffickers. The money would be used to help victims and fund future police operations.
Since the start of 2017, the Brown County Sheriff's Office has worked roughly 100 human trafficking cases and nearly one dozen more in which a child was the victim.
"Really, every time you cast the net out, it comes back full," says Rep. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere). "And we really need to do something to deal with the demand side of human trafficking."
Rep. Jacque wrote Assembly Bill 435 to create a $5,000 surcharge on convicted traffickers, also known as johns. Johns is the title law enforcement uses for people who patronize or solicit a prostitute.
"It's kind of like the drug world. You can take all the drugs away. You can take their cars away, but the minute you start messing with their money, they get really upset," says Sgt. Matt Wilson, Brown County Sheriff's Office. "And it's the same way for the johns."
Half the money would go to the Crime Victims Fund. The other half would help pay overtime, or fund human trafficking operations for law enforcement across the state.
"I think what helps us the most around here is getting the money in the victim fund, to actually pull from that crime victim fund and say, 'hey listen, we have a victim here who needs help,'" Sgt. Wilson says. "We don't necessarily have the money for it, however, we can pull from a state fund."
Sgt. Wilson and fellow investigators will testify Thursday in Madison before the Assembly Committee on Public Safety. They will voice support for this bill and other laws targeting trafficking.
Jacque hopes bi-partisan support will help the bill advance quickly to a vote.
"This is no cost to taxpayers. This is something that the estimates are saying is going to provide over $1 million annually in terms of additional resources for victims as well as investigations," Rep. Jacque says.