Today, Jan. 9, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that Louisiana has been awarded a $1.2 million dollar grant from the U.S. Dept. of Justice Office for Victims of Crime to improve outcomes for child victims of human trafficking. It will be used to implement a multi-year federal project known as the Louisiana Child Trafficking Collaborative. In addition, Gov. Edwards has declared January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Louisiana.
“We know human trafficking is the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the United States and in Louisiana, which is why Donna and I are very passionate about bringing an end to this senseless crime and helping the children and adults who are victimized by it,” said Gov. Edwards. “We are especially excited about this grant to implement the Louisiana Child Trafficking Collaborative. In Louisiana alone, over the last several years thousands of victims have been identified as either confirmed or prospective victims of human sex or labor trafficking. This must end. Thankfully, we have already begun to see major progress as we work closely with law enforcement and our state lawmakers to support laws and policies to enact harsher penalties on the perpetrators of human trafficking and help to restore the lives of those directly impacted by this terrible tragedy.”
Louisiana is one of only seven states to receive this funding—since 2015. The grant will be implemented over a three year period. In 2016, Shared Hope International ranked Louisiana #1 in the nation for its anti-trafficking laws.
“This is an important issue that everyone needs to be concerned about because it can and does happen in all communities,” said First Lady Donna Edwards. “Human trafficking is a global, national and statewide problem, and we are committed to doing all we can to raise awareness, help those who are in need and prevent others from becoming victims.”
In February 2018, The Dept. of Children and Family Services annual report to the Legislature revealed that there were a total of 681 confirmed or prospective victims of human trafficking here in Louisiana. 641 (94.1%) of those were sex trafficking victims 29 (5.1%) were sex and labor trafficking victims. Of all reported victims 356 (52%) were identified as juveniles again which was a 77% increase from the previous year. The saddest piece of data given was that 72 of those sex trafficking juvenile victims were ages 12 and under.
The Louisiana Child Trafficking Collaborative will be implemented by the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, which is led by Executive Director Dr. Dana Hunter.
“Louisiana is very progressive in its efforts to identify, treat, and prevent human trafficking,” said Dr. Hunter. “We want children and families to be aware of the ways in which pimps recruit victims, but we also want citizens to know that we are doing everything possible to increase public safety.”