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The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Vermont, the Vermont Department of Public Safety, and Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services announced today that the Vermont State Police (VSP) and the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services (CCVS) have received a $1.2 million grant to combat human trafficking. This U.S. Department of Justice grant, which was awarded September 27, 2018, will allow VSP and CCVS to work collaboratively with the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force (VT HTTF) to eradicate the exploitation of human beings for labor and commercial sex. With this grant, Vermont will initiate a statewide approach in the fight against this violation of basic human rights.
This grant is designed to support the delivery of comprehensive and specialized services for all victims of human trafficking and the investigation and prosecution of sex and labor trafficking cases. CCVS and VSP will develop and fund at least three new positions entirely dedicated to promoting victim-centered and trauma-informed investigations and comprehensive service delivery. The $1.2 million grant covers a three-year period beginning October 1, 2018.
Since 2013, under the leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, the VT HTTF has worked to facilitate a collaborative effort to eliminate and prevent the trafficking of persons within the State of Vermont; to pursue prosecution of perpetrators; and to protect, rehabilitate, and empower survivors of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a crime that causes deep and lasting trauma to even the strongest of its survivors.
Human trafficking is the act of compelling a person by force, fraud, or coercion to provide labor or a commercial sex act. Coercion may be subtle and insidious, and traffickers often threaten serious physical, psychological, and emotional harm. Human trafficking is a global, national, and local problem, and Vermont is not immune to this crisis. Drug addicts and other vulnerable people such as children, the disabled, and the undocumented are specifically targeted and recruited by traffickers for exploitation. Between 2014 and mid-2017, in the Chittenden County area alone, the HTTF’s data collection efforts estimate that there were over 250 suspected incidents of human trafficking.
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, “I’m proud of the great work done by Vermont’s Human Trafficking Task Force to secure this highly competitive grant. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve worked to ensure these funds are available to Vermont and to other states, where some people may not be aware that human trafficking is a problem. Make no mistake, human trafficking can be found everywhere, particularly in areas hard hit by the illicit drug trade. With this grant, Vermont will have more tools to identify victims and target those who are profiting from this insidious trade.”
United States Attorney Christina E. Nolan remarked, “The HTTF and its partners are very grateful to Senator Leahy and the Appropriations Committee for ensuring the availability of funds to combat human trafficking, and we thank the Department of Justice for granting Vermont’s application for this important funding. Human trafficking is one of the most dangerous and least recognized crimes occurring in Vermont, and it is a particularly awful component of the opioid trade. Tragically, drug dealers routinely earn money by using brutal violence and other forms of coercion to compel addicts to perform sex acts. We are currently prosecuting some of the worst perpetrators of this horrific crime in federal court, and offenders should be on notice that they will be targets for federal prosecution in Vermont. As with the opioid crisis, it is only through a multidisciplinary, holistic approach uniting the enforcement, treatment, and prevention communities, that we can successfully combat the inhumanity and horror that is human trafficking. We have pursued this forward-leaning approach through the HTTF, and this grant will allow us to strengthen our partnerships and expand our efforts – particularly to areas outside Chittenden County – so that we can identify and rescue more victims, support more brave survivors, and bring strong consequences to the perpetrators of this grievous injustice.”
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan stated, “This grant will make a difference for Vermont and for all Vermonters impacted by human trafficking. With these funds and dedicated professionals, we will now be able to direct our efforts in a very targeted way. We will be better able to protect victims and hold those who profit from human trafficking accountable.”
“This grant will allow us to make a giant step forward in our fight against this modern day slavery,” stated Commissioner of Public Safety Thomas D. Anderson. “Every year millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world. Vermont is not immune from this crime. This grant will allow us to better protect victims and the public,” stated Anderson.
Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services Director Chris Fenno observed that “with this grant, Vermont will be able to strengthen the Human Trafficking Task Force and work across the state with allied professionals to help ensure that victims are identified and assisted. These funds will greatly enhance collaboration and continue building a strong and unified response to hold accountable those who engage in modern day slavery.”
Additional Task Force partners include Give Way to Freedom, United Way, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs, HOPE Works, Spectrum Youth and Family Services, Disability Rights Vermont, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Department of Labor OIG, Vermont Department for Children and Families, Burlington Police Department, South Burlington Police Department, Colchester Police Department, Rutland Police Department, and the Office of the Chittenden County State’s Attorney.
The Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force is led by Co-Chairs Assistant United States Attorney Abigail Averbach, Assistant Attorney General Cindy Maguire, and Dr. Aron Steward of the Department for Children and Families, and is comprised of subcommittees dedicated to Law Enforcement, Victim Services, and Training and Outreach.
To make a report to law enforcement, call the Vermont Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-98HUMAN (1-888-984-8626). Information regarding the human trafficking of a youth (under the age of 18) should be reported to the Department for Children and Families by calling Vermont Centralized Intake: 1-800-649-5285.
If you become aware of an instance of human trafficking and would like to speak with a trained specialist who can help assess the situation and provide information and referrals, call: 211. For more information about human trafficking, please visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org or www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.