A grant from the U.S. Department of Justice could help, as least in a small amount, to help curb a crime that continues to quietly stay under the radar, to a large degree.
The continued increase in violent crime not only in Louisiana but throughout the nation has been a focal point of concern for law enforcement agencies and residents alike, but human trafficking has become the fastest growing and second-largest criminal industry in both our state and across the nation.
The $1.2 million the DOJ awarded the state will fund the groundwork to begin the Louisiana Child Trafficking Collaborative, which will further the state’s efforts to identify, treat and prevent human trafficking.
A total of 356 juveniles were among the 681 confirmed or prospective victims of trafficking in 2017, according to the state Department of Child and Family Services. In some cases, the children were ages of 12 and under and were forced into sexual trafficking.
Perhaps the most disturbing data involves the origins of the victims. Some may come through airports, others come from college campuses and – possibly the most frightening – by youths who unknowingly enter social media relationships with traffickers.
It’s proof that we’re in a far different age, one in which the safety of our children is affected by so many factors around them.
The state legislation coauthored by Reps. Valarie Hodges and Julie Stokes in 2014 helped put the wheels in motion on anti-trafficking laws ranked No. 1 in the nation by Shared Hope International.
The top ranking may bring a sense of encouragement, but we cannot let our guard down. As with the battle against violent crimes and drug abuse, the perpetrators of sexual trafficking have somehow remained a few steps ahead of the law.
The $1.2 million grant, in theory, is not a lot of money. However, the start of a program that will promote awareness of the crime and safety of our children represents a step in the right direction.