FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Attorney General Andy Beshear is recognizing law enforcement efforts that have improved the state’s ability to combat human trafficking.
“Because human trafficking can often hide in plain sight, it has become one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world and in Kentucky,” Beshear said.
Beshear said the outcome of a partnership with his office’s Department of Criminal Investigations, the Polaris Project, which oversees the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and the Kentucky State Police (KSP) is a streamlined response to reports involving victims of sex and labor trafficking.
“We are working to deter traffickers by ensuring KSP dispatchers have the ability to appropriately identify complex trafficking activities and quickly dispatch law enforcement in a victim-centered manner,” said Beshear.
John Moberly, commissioner of the AG’s Department of Criminal Investigations, says a victim-centered approach seeks to minimize a victim’s trauma by supporting and engaging them as they see their traffickers brought to justice throughout the criminal justice process.
“The partnership with Polaris and the tremendous resources of KSP have created one of the most impactful changes for law enforcement, and victims, that I have seen in my 27-year policing career,” said Moberly, a former KSP officer.
Moberly says the reporting changes will continue with training to current KSP officers and detectives, as well as future officers.
“In the last year, the typical response to an urgent notification from the human trafficking hotline is down from hours to just a few minutes,” said Moberly.
In 2018, Kentucky law enforcement received nearly 70 human trafficking tips from the hotline, 888-373-7888.
Beshear said the changes are accomplished with support from a three-year $1.5 million U.S Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Office of Victims of Crime grant that his office received in partnership with Catholic Charities of Louisville in 2016.
The funds are being applied to assist the agencies and the Kentucky Human Trafficking Task Force to better research and collect human trafficking data, educate local law enforcement on victim-centered investigations and prosecutions and increase direct victim services.
Beshear’s office also hired the state’s first full-time human trafficking investigator with grant funds.
The AG’s investigator has been instrumental in leading and coordinating human trafficking investigations and trainings with partners, including Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD).
Sergeant Tim Stokes with LMPD, Sex Crimes Unit says Kentucky is seeing tremendous improvement in human trafficking investigations.
“The scope and nature of this complex criminal activity is better understood and we have greater cooperation and information exchange between agencies throughout the state,” said Stokes.
Stokes says they also, “have a better understanding of the very nature of trauma, which allows us to move through these investigations with a more trauma-informed, victim-centered approach.”
Other law enforcement task force partners include the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.
Currently, the AG’s office has 32 open human trafficking cases, and over the course of 2018, the office has been involved in 31 arrests or citations involving the crime.
Last year, the office secured a 20-year sentence against former Campbell County District Judge Timothy Nolan on numerous felony charges, including human trafficking of adults and minors.
The AG’s Office of Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Prevention and Prosecution has collaborated with other key industries, like commercial trucking, tourism and hospitality, to train more than 9,000 Kentuckians and raise awareness of the crime.
Most recently, Beshear teamed up with the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) to train nearly 400 TARC managers, dispatchers and bus drivers to identify and report human trafficking when they encounter it on the streets of Greater Louisville.
Beshear’s Office of Victim’s Advocacy has also trained nearly 7,000 individuals on victim advocacy services and provided direct victim services to more than 340 victims of various crimes across the Commonwealth.
If a human trafficking victim is in immediate danger dial 911 and report suspected human trafficking of a child to 877-KYSAFE1.
The national hotline is 888-373-7888.