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Press Release

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Announces Justice Department Strategy To Combat Human Trafficking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Michigan

Local efforts to strengthen engagement and coordination mirror the national strategy

          February 1, 2022 -- U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today released the Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

          Rooted in the foundational pillars and priorities of the interagency National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which President Biden released on Dec. 3, 2021, the Justice Department's National Strategy is expansive in scope.  It aims to enhance the department's capacity to prevent human trafficking; to prosecute human trafficking cases; and to support and protect human trafficking victims and survivors.

          “Human trafficking is an insidious crime,” said Attorney General Garland. “Traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm. The Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking will bring the full force of the Department to this fight.”

          Among other things, the Justice Department’s multi-year strategy to combat all forms of human trafficking will:

  • Strengthen engagement, coordination and joint efforts to combat human trafficking by prosecutors in all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and by federal law enforcement agents nationwide.
  • Establish federally-funded, locally-led anti-human trafficking task forces that support sustained state law enforcement leadership and comprehensive victim assistance.
  • Step up departmental efforts to end forced labor by increasing attention, resources and coordination in labor trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
  • Enhance initiatives to reduce vulnerability of American Indians and Alaska Natives to violent crime, including human trafficking, and to locate missing children.
  • Develop and implement new victim screening protocols to identify potential human trafficking victims during law enforcement operations and encourage victims to share important information.
  • Increase capacity to provide victim-centered assistance to trafficking survivors, including by supporting efforts to deliver financial restoration to victims.
  • Expand dissemination of federal human trafficking training, guidance and expertise.
  • Advance innovative demand-reduction strategies.

          The Department’s strategy will be implemented under the direction of the National Human Trafficking Coordinator designated by the Attorney General in accordance with the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017.

          U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge advised that human trafficking is everywhere, including in the Western District of Michigan. “My office is committed not only to prosecuting this horrendous crime, but also collaborating with and supporting the efforts of various community organizations who provide support to victims and bring awareness to this issue,” said Birge.

          Collaborative projects and local partners that correspond with the national strategy of strengthening engagement and coordination include:

  • In December 2021, the Department of Justice provided the Kent County Sheriff and Solutions to End Exploitation (SEE) Human Trafficking Task Force $750,000 in grant funds to identify and respond to human trafficking in Kent County. The task force will consist of members from local, state, and federal law enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office, and service providers who will address victim needs.

 

  • Last week, the Michigan Abolitionist Project, SEE and The Joseph Project hosted a Statewide Human Trafficking Summit attended by members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The summit brought together cross-functional teams with different skill sets and resource offerings.  This virtual summit allowed law enforcement, civilians, and human trafficking victims to collaborate on how to address specific human trafficking issues impacting the State of Michigan. 

 

  • The Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force provides both training and outreach programing, recently co-sponsoring a viewing of and panel discussion about the Michigan film “Ring of Silence,” a true account of a young girl being sex trafficked.  The U.P. task force is a collaborative effort among members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, state prosecutors, state and local law enforcement agencies, tribal communities, and social service providers all in the U.P.

 

  • The Wyoming Police Department now houses a Crisis Aid International office which is staffed with a full-time advocate available 24/7 to assist trafficking victims and their families in obtaining necessary resources such as therapy and housing. In December 2021, representatives from the U.S Attorney’s Office, federal agencies, and local law enforcement gathered to learn about Crisis Aid International’s Children’s Anti-Exploitation Partnership Program, a new resource in the Western District of Michigan.

          U.S. Attorney Birge encourages the community to be aware of indicators of trafficking and report suspicious activity.

          Indicators of human trafficking can include the following:

  • An individual with an inability to produce identification or other documents because they are in a third party’s possession and control;
  • An individual who is unable to freely contact friends or family;
  • An individual who is coached on what to say to law enforcement or other authority figures;
  • An individual who lacks knowledge or awareness as to what happens to the money they earn/are supposed to earn;
  • An individual who lacks knowledge or awareness as to how much money they earn;
  • An individual who is unable move or travel freely;
  • Garnishment of a salary to pay off a fee imposed by their employer;
  • Juveniles engaged in commercial sex; and
  • Frequent visits to the emergency department.

          If you believe that you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at   1-888-373-7888, or Text 233733.

          To read the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking click here.

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Updated February 2, 2022

Topics
Human Trafficking