January is Human Trafficking awareness month
TOPEKA – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is launching a radio public service announcement (PSA) in January in conjunction with Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“Human trafficking is a crime of exploitation that thrives in the shadows or, sometimes, hides in plain sight,” Schmidt said. “Continuing to raise awareness and promote a collaborative approach to identifying trafficking and to knowing how to respond is a key to combating this terrible offense against human dignity.”
Each week, photos of missing children and adults are posted on Facebook at an alarming rate.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking is one of the largest and fastest-growing criminal industries in the world. It is based on recruiting, harboring and transporting people for the purpose of exploitation. Both sex trafficking and labor trafficking occur in Kansas and both adults and children are victims. Kansas’ location and interstate system make it a major transportation area for victims of human trafficking.
Schmidt notes in the PSA, scheduled to run on radio stations across the state during the month of January, that the public can assist by reporting suspicious activity to the national hotline at 888-3737-888 or to local law enforcement in an emergency situation.
Combating human trafficking in Kansas has been a priority for Schmidt. Kansas is now one of 15 states whose laws receive an “A” ranking from Shared Hope International, a victim advocacy group that seeks to end sex trafficking and exploitation of women and children worldwide. Since Schmidt took office in 2011, Kansas’s score has risen from an “F” to an “A,” one of only six states that has done so.
One area in which Shared Hope International suggests Kansas statutes have room for improvement is in the criminal justice system’s handling of sex-trafficking victims who themselves commit crimes. The Legislature began discussions of that subject last session, and Schmidt said he anticipates those discussions to continue in 2020.
In 2019, nearly 500 Kansas professionals participated in multidisciplinary training hosted by the attorney general's office and the Kansas Department for Children and Families at nine locations across the state. In addition, the attorney general’s office, in coordination with the Kansas Interdiction for the Protection of Children team, will provide training for law enforcement officers later this month. The training will focus on the resources available to assistin establishing the status of a child who may be missing, exploited, or at risk of exploitation.
The attorney general’s office is also home to the Kansas Human Trafficking Advisory Board, which is composed of members of law enforcement, prosecutors, court personnel, advocates, state agency representatives and survivors of human trafficking who have expertise in this field. The statutory board since 2013 has been tasked with providing training for law enforcement, developing public awareness and education initiatives, victim identification and support and development of a statewide collaborative effort across disciplines and jurisdictions to combat human trafficking in Kansas.