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While no part of town is immune, some neighborhoods are hit particularly hard by prostitution and the other problems that follow, including drugsrobbery and violence.

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Texas charted new legal territory by becoming the first state to make buying sex a felony, a move aling a crucial change in how the justice system has long approached prostitution.

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The state unanimously passed HBwhich was ed into law by Gov. The law goes into effect Sept. Senfronia Thompson who authored the bill.

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While some experts say the law reflects a new wave of systemic reform and could help trafficked sex workers by deterring demand, others say it misses the mark and instead will further tie the victims up in the legal system. The new law came together after the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force, a group formed by the state Legislature inpresented its recommendations, the Houston Chronicle reported.

On top of increasing the penalty on paying for prostitution, to a maximum of two years of jailtime for the first offense, the Texas law also expands felony charges against traffickers who recruit minors at treatment facilities and youth centers, the newspaper reported.

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The new law also added a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in prison, for those who trespass on treatment center properties, and enhanced penalties for anyone caught selling drugs or committing other drug-related crimes within 1, feet of the centers, according to the newspaper. She said the law also aligns with similar approaches around the country like offering sex workers pretrial diversionswhich allows them to go through alternative sentencing options rather than spending time in jail or prison.

The intent is to focus on rehabilitation rather than on the punishment, she said.

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Other local advocates also see the law deterring the buying of sex as a good move. What it does is basically enhances, and it goes to a state felony which is entitled to jail time. While accurate s on sex trafficking are hard to pin down, the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization that operates the U.

National Human Trafficking Hotline, reported over 22, victims of trafficking in nationally, and added that the of online situations of sex trafficking reported to the hotline increased by more than 45 percent during the pandemic. But while some are hopeful, other experts say the law will have an opposite effect on sex trafficking. Kathleen Kim, a professor at Loyola Marymount University Law School who focuses on human trafficking, said while the law may be well-intentioned, it will end up entangling victims in the legal system and take valuable funding away from the resources they actually need.

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One way to improve the law could be to add a provision in the bill or additional law that promises blanket immunity for the providers of the sex services from any kind of arrest or legal charge and does not compel other participation unless they themselves want to, she said, adding that anti-trafficking efforts can only work if victims feel safe around law enforcement. Kim did say that some of the other provisions of the Texas law that aim at traffickers who prey on women and minors may be more useful in helping victims.

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Follow NBC News. By Safia Samee Ali. Texas makes paying for sex a felony, but will it help trafficking victims? Safia Samee Ali.

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