Nearly 50 attorneys general ask for funding to fight human trafficking

MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, along with 46 other state and territorial attorneys general, sent a letter on Tuesday, December 17th, asking Congress to fund the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).  This funding would go toward programs that fight human trafficking in the United States and abroad.

Established in 2000, the TVPRA greatly increased America’s efforts to protect human trafficking victims, assist survivors, improve prevention methods and successfully prosecute human traffickers.  The original legislation established human trafficking as a federal crime.

“Human trafficking is a devastating enterprise, which is incredibly difficult for victims to escape,” Attorney General Van Hollen said.  “The Wisconsin Department of Justice has made investigation of child sex trafficking a priority locally by adding law enforcement resources.  I added my name to this letter to ensure our partners at the federal level understand the importance of keeping up the fight against this inhumane industry.” 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, after drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second-largest criminal industry in the world, generating about $32 billion each year.

Many victims of human trafficking are forced to work in prostitution or other areas of the sex industry.  Trafficking also occurs in forms of labor exploitation.  According to a study of U.S. Department of Justice human trafficking task force cases, 83 percent of sex trafficking victims identified in the U.S. were U.S. citizens. The average age that U.S. citizens are first used for commercial sex is 12-years-old to 14-years-old.

A total of 47 state and territorial attorneys general signed the letter, including:  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

    Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Training & Standards Bureau and the Office of Crime Victim Services (OCVS) held a three-day training conference for nearly 200 law enforcement, victim advocate, social service professionals and others in Brookfield.  The training to address law enforcement’s response to child sex trafficking investigations included sessions on interacting with survivors; identifying high risk victims; interviewing child victims and child sex trafficking suspects; and using technology to investigate/prosecute child sex trafficking cases.

    As part of the 2013-2015 biennial budget, the DOJ -- at its request – has added an additional three special agents and two criminal analysts within the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) for the purpose of addressing child sex trafficking specifically.  These additional resources will allow for a greater emphasis on this problem and future large-scale operations.