FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ)- Attorney General Andy Beshear and Catholic Charities of Louisville released the 2017 Human Trafficking Task Force Report that focuses on the state’s coordinated efforts to fight human trafficking Tuesday.
The report highlights Kentucky’s new streamlined notification process that better assists in investigations and follow-up victim services for reported cases of human trafficking across the state.
The changes allow for a quicker response to incidents of suspected human trafficking in Kentucky and is one of numerous efforts outlined in the annual report of the Kentucky Human Trafficking Task Force.
The report is the first overall look at the state’s coordinated efforts to fight human trafficking since Beshear’s office and Catholic Charities of Louisville, co-chairs of the task force, received a federal grant in 2016. The grant was the first from the U.S Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office of Victims of Crime ever awarded to a Kentucky agency for human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is a growing and gruesome crime in the Commonwealth,” Beshear says. “In order to combat it, we needed to streamline the information sharing protocols between our federal, state and local task force members to more efficiently respond to reports of human trafficking. Now, law enforcement can immediately investigate and advocates can immediately offer victim services.”
Marissa Castellanos, program director of the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative, a program to combat human trafficking at Catholic Charities of Louisville, says the Kentucky Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force has been an important tool for Kentucky’s movement forward in protocol development, proactive investigations, increased collaboration among agencies, and data collection and reporting efforts.
“As a result, trafficking victims are being identified at a higher rate, response has improved and services are more accessible to victims,” says Castellanos. “Catholic Charities remains committed to the work of victim-centered advocacy and service provision for labor and sex trafficking victims identified in the Commonwealth. We are grateful for the leadership and support of the Office of the Attorney General, and our many other community partners in these efforts.”
Beshear says training all partners to recognize human trafficking has been a key component in streamlining the notification process of potential reports of the crime.
In 2017, Beshear’s office and Catholic Charities conducted 80 statewide trainings, reaching nearly 3,500 individuals and created the state’s first coordinated effort to train hotel staff to recognize and report human trafficking.
The AG’s office has worked with the Department of Criminal Justice Training to offer human trafficking as a standardized class to Kentucky police officers. The state’s first full-time human trafficking investigator, who is funded by the federal grant Kentucky received in 2016, developed the course curriculum.
Advocates created the statewide task force in 2013 to assist in the implementation of the Human Trafficking Victims Rights Protection Act that passed the General Assembly that year. The act strengthened penalties for traffickers, established a pathway to services for child victims and created a legal structure to bring about justice in human trafficking cases.
Along with Catholic Charities of Louisville, the primary task force partners include the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, Kentucky State Police and Lexington Police Department. Overall membership of the task force includes nearly 50 agencies.
The report contains human trafficking numbers from various task force members. With help from the federal grant, the task force has established a Data and Research Subcommittee chaired by Dr. Elizabeth Perkins, of Morehead State University, to establish data procedures. This includes identifying current available data on human trafficking and identifying gaps in information.
“Like many other states, Kentucky lacks comprehensive data on human trafficking,” Beshear says. “Data collection is a critical component in supporting efforts to prevent, identify and investigate all forms of human trafficking.”
Beshear, who has established the Office of the Attorney General as the leading state agency fighting human trafficking, said the efforts featured in the task force’s report are all important steps forward for the many agencies’ ongoing efforts to save victims from human trafficking.
In the first four months of 2018, Beshear’s office has arrested two Louisville men and a Louisville woman on human trafficking charges involving two 16-year-old girls, and a Kansas man who attempted to purchase a Kentucky child for $250 and in exchange for drugs in a separate case. The office also secured the guilty plea of a Lawrenceburg man in March on human trafficking charges.
In February, Beshear’s office secured the guilty plea of former Campbell County District Judge Timothy Nolan on numerous felony charges, including human trafficking of adults, promoting human trafficking of minors and unlawful transaction with minors. Nolan is expected to serve 20 years in prison.
To learn more about human trafficking and efforts to fight it, contact the Attorney General’s Office of Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Prevention and Prosecution at 502-696-5300 or visit Catholic Charities of Louisville Bakhita Empowerment Initiative at https://cclou.org/bakhita-empowerment-initiative.
The national human trafficking hotline number is 888-373-7888. Report suspected trafficking of children to 877-KYSAFE1.