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Attorney General Doug Peterson said Friday he has hired Stephen Patrick O’Meara in his office to serve as human trafficking coordinator.

O'Meara will be the point person in the development and implementation of a statewide strategic plan to combat human trafficking, including enforcement, victim services and public awareness, Peterson said. He also will participate in the investigation and prosecution of state or federal human trafficking cases.

Peterson has made combating human trafficking a priority, working on the issue as a private attorney and then emphasizing it in last year's campaign.

In this legislative session, he supported a bill (LB294) introduced by Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk, passed and signed by the governor, that would strengthen Nebraska's human trafficking laws, particularly sex trafficking of girls, by providing additional safeguards and remedies for victims. It also created a victim assistance fund.

In 2013, Nebraska lawmakers passed a measure (LB255), introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, that ramped up penalties for pandering, created a task force to investigate and study human trafficking in Nebraska and placed posters at rest stops and strip clubs to guide victims to call for assistance. It also required the state to provide mandatory training on the issue for law enforcement, attorneys and others involved in the juvenile justice system.

Last year McGill introduced a bill (LB934) that would have established a coordinator of human trafficking prevention and rehabilitation under the Nebraska Crime Commission, but that bill died in the Judiciary Committee.

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In recent years, O’Meara also has been actively engaged in the anti-human-trafficking movement in both Nebraska and Iowa, working with the Omaha Child Exploitation Task Force, the Coalition on Human Trafficking (Omaha), Nebraska Against Human Trafficking (Omaha), the Iowa Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Investigation & Prosecution Initiative, and the Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking (Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota).

As human trafficking coordinator for the Nebraska Department of Justice, O’Meara is developing and implementing a statewide victim-oriented plan to integrate enforcement, victim services, awareness, and education. He will work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement, and with victim services organizations to establish a multidisciplinary human trafficking enforcement network, Peterson said.

O’Meara is a graduate of the Creighton University School of Law and has been practicing law for 42 years. For 25 years, until last year, he served as an assistant United States Attorney in Nebraska and Iowa.

He will be paid $78,750 annually.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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