Attorney General Kathy Jennings on Monday announced the formation of a dedicated unit within the Delaware Department of Justice to investigate instances of human trafficking.
The unit will be aptly named the Human Trafficking Unit, or HTU.
“Human trafficking is among the direst human rights crises of this century,” Jennings said in a statement announcing the unit’s formation. “Awareness has grown by orders of magnitude in recent years, and I’m proud of the work that our staff and our partners have been doing to target trafficking. That progress matters – but we know it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s incumbent upon us to marshal every resource we can spare in this fight and to eradicate the scourge of human trafficking once and for all.”
According to the Delaware Department of Justice, Delaware law enforcement has made more than 50 human trafficking-related arrests in the last five years alone.
“That figure is widely believed to represent only a fraction of the full scale of sex and labor trafficking in Delaware given the inherently clandestine nature of the crime and the state’s location on the I-95 corridor,” the agency notes.
Civil Division attorneys in recent years have targeted illicit massage parlors and “front” businesses used to facilitate labor and sex trafficking.
Monday’s announcement, however, marks the first time in Delaware’s history that anti-human trafficking efforts will be housed full-time within a dedicated, centralized, and permanent unit.
“The HTU will focus on a holistic approach that emphasizes collaboration with public and nonprofit partners, raising awareness, supporting survivors, engaging in community outreach, and eradicating trafficking through education, prevention, and, when appropriate, prosecution,” the statement says. “The Unit is currently managing several ongoing investigations.”
Rep. Kim Williams, D-Marshallton, said the Human Trafficking Unit will give resources and awareness to survivors while holding traffickers responsible.
“This new Human Trafficking Unit will further provide an opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless,” Williams said.
The unit will consist of two full-time Deputy Attorneys General, in addition to Family Division Director Abigail Rodgers, who will lead the unit.
Rodgers, a veteran prosecutor, has been a longtime advocate for disrupting trafficking and helping survivors.
She has served as president of the board of directors for Prevent Child Abuse Delaware, commander of the Child Predator Task Force, and the inaugural chair of the Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council from 2015 to 2016.
“One of the most devastating acts of violation is the act of destroying someone’s sense of humanity and hope,” said Brian Moore, current chair of the Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council. “Those who fall prey to the horrific control of traffickers are robbed of their belief that they are anything more than property. Part of our role as a Council is to be the spokesperson, champion and advocate for those whose humanity has been stolen.”
Anyone who suspects human trafficking may be occurring should contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888, or call 911 if someone may be in imminent danger.
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