By Kimberly Eiten

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland’s top office is cracking down on sex traffickers who make their money along the I-95 corridor.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced the new legislation on sex trafficking Thursday, adding that it’s a violent crime and it’s time state law treats it as such.

The state is a secret hotbed for sex trafficking, ranking top five per capita in cases, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

The illegal business is fueled by criminals who make their money along the I-95 corridor — in many cases selling underage victims.

“As a father, I am heartbroken for these daughters and sons who are being victimized and brutalized,” Hogan said.

As a governor, Hogan said enough is enough.

He announced Thursday his latest push to crack down on the criminal enterprises.

“Human trafficking is among the most despicable crimes occurring in our state, and make no mistake about it, it is a violent crime,” Hogan said.

The legislation he plans to propose in January would classify it as such and demand tougher sentences and more prison time for perpetrators.

One man was arrested in Baltimore City for allegedly grooming victims through social media then prostituting them on the website backpage.com.

Police say he trafficked 25 people, some as young as 15.

It’s a case that’s sadly not rare in Maryland.

“We see every day the traumatic effects of human trafficking on victims and their families,” said Susan Esserman with the Maryland Safe Center.

Hogan introduced a similar bill last session that didn’t make it through the house.

Hogan also said he signed an executive order creating a new state-level position to coordinate support services for victims and to work with law enforcement.

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