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The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont and the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Vermont are pleased to announce that on June 7, 2018, the Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force (VT HTTF) executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) contractually implementing the state’s multidisciplinary approach to combating human trafficking affecting the State of Vermont and its residents. Vermont recognizes that the act of trafficking another human being is a violation of basic human rights and is determined to bring an end to the exploitation of human beings for labor or commercial sex.
Since 2013, under the leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, the 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 through comprehensive social, medical, and legal services. Human trafficking is a crime that causes deep and lasting trauma to even the strongest of its survivors. This formal agreement to work collaboratively across disciplines illustrates Vermont’s commitment to bringing a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach to our work as we fight to end human trafficking. Executing a formal MOU is a significant and crucial step forward to eradicate the modern-day slavery known as human trafficking, a crisis facing the nation and Vermont.
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. Due to the inherent challenges of counting those whose activities are deliberately shielded from sight, we believe that the incidence of sex and labor trafficking in Vermont statewide is substantially higher than these numbers suggest.
Vermont’s United States Attorney, Christina E. Nolan, emphasized the link between human trafficking and the opiate crisis in Vermont, stating, “Human trafficking continues to be one of the most dangerous, but least understood, aspects of the opioid trade in Vermont. Drug dealers coerce addicts to perform commercial sex acts for the benefit of the dealers’ illegal organizations, deliberately perpetuating the victims’ addiction in order to exploit them for commercial gain. Trafficking in people compounds the damage that trafficking in opioids has caused our state, and often involves use of brutal violence and abuse against victims. Our response to that epidemic must continue to bring the problem of human trafficking out of the shadows, get trafficking survivors the help and services they need, and prosecute the traffickers who prey on some of our most vulnerable Vermonters by intentionally exacerbating their addictions for financial gain. From an enforcement perspective, those who engage in this horrific crime should be on notice that they will be targets for federal prosecution.”
Vermont’s Attorney General, T.J. Donovan, added, “I'm proud to partner with U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan and her team to combat human trafficking. This is about protecting basic human rights and ensuring that survivors have the help and services they deserve.”
Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, regardless of race, age, gender, nationality, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation. Trafficking victims are often manipulated via false promises concerning relationships, employment, lifestyle, or drug availability, and victims are lured into situations where their will is deliberately broken down, so that they can be controlled by the trafficker. Human trafficking does not necessarily occur behind closed doors. In many cases, the trafficker’s control over the victim is so profound that the trafficker can control the victim even when he or she is out in the community, interacting with people on a daily basis.
MOU signing members include the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont, the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Vermont, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Vermont State Police, Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, and Give Way to Freedom. Partnering agencies include the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, 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, Office of the Chittenden County State’s Attorney, United Way, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs, HOPE Works, Spectrum Youth and Family Services, and Disability Rights Vermont.
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.
The Vermont Human Trafficking Task Force is led by co-chairs Assistant United States Attorney Abigail Averbach and Assistant Attorney General Cindy Maguire and is comprised of subcommittees dedicated to Law Enforcement, Victim Services, and Training and Outreach. Any professionals or community members interested in a training or awareness event should contact the Vermont U.S. Attorney’s Office at (802) 951-6725.