Md. ramps up fight against human trafficking with funding, new state position

WASHINGTON — Maryland is accelerating its fight against human trafficking with millions of dollars in state funding to support or create multiple initiatives that help victims and go after criminals.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said as a father, he finds human trafficking despicable. “I’m heartbroken for these daughters and sons who are being victimized and brutalized,” Hogan said, his voice choked with emotion.

During a news conference Thursday in Rockville, Maryland, Hogan signed an executive order to create the position of “Anti-Human Trafficking Director,” who will engage with and coordinate with communities that are addressing the issue throughout the state.

“This is going to be a multidisciplinary collaboration,” said Glenn Fueston, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. “We’re going to be able to move forward, so it’s working across those lines of public safety, public health (and) victims services.”

Informed, evidence-based strategies

A half-million dollar grant will help the University of Maryland create a Crime Research and Innovation Center for the state that will develop strategies for law enforcement, prevention and victim services.

“In order to show progress, move things forward, develop programs that are evidence-based, measure the impact — and repeat,” Fueston said.

Data mining to target criminals

A new pilot program to include Maryland’s U.S. attorney’s office and multiple police departments and agencies will analyze 2,000 criminal cases “to develop timely, accurate and actionable intelligence to help take down human trafficking networks,” Hogan said.

Helping victims

The $5 million to help victims of human trafficking will go toward things such as emergency shelter, a 24-hour talk-line, housing assistance, GED and vocational training, help getting a driver’s license or transportation to and from appointments, and legal help.

To learn more about human trafficking in Maryland, or to find resources, visit these sites:

Support existing efforts

More than $4 million in new grants will go to localities participating in the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network that targets gangs and violent criminal networks. Montgomery County received $257,400 in funding, and Prince George’s County was awarded $195,160. A participating Hyattsville coalition was awarded $387,116.

Proposed legislation

Hogan is among state officials who want to increase penalties against human traffickers by classifying the offense as a violent crime. Legislation to do that failed in 2018.

“The Senate voted unanimously to pass this legislation. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, the House failed to pass this common sense proposal,” Hogan said.

During the state’s next legislative session that begins in January, Hogan will try again and introduce the Felony Human Trafficking Act of 2019.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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