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Valley leaders call for tougher sex trafficking sentences

PEORIA, Ariz. — Former Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman and Cindy McCain said the issue of sex trafficking is far more serious than most people believe and must be addressed by stronger prison sentences against those who prey on the victims.

For Hallman, a candidate for governor, the issue is deeply personal. His niece was kidnapped and forced into the sex trade at 15, drugged and forced into prostitution after being shipped to Florida. She died before her 19th birthday.

“It is the appetites of Americans that must be addressed,” he said. “Those appetites are drawing illegal drugs and the sex trade to the United States.”

Many of the victims in the sex trade business are brought into Arizona from Mexico.

Cindy McCain, who co-chairs a task force appointed by Gov. Jan Brewer, said lengthier sentences are needed to put away the people who prey on young victims.

“These girls are not prostitutes, they’re victims,” she said. “They have been trafficked. We need to look at this in a new way. This is a human rights issue.”