ANNAPOLIS, MD – On Aug. 9, Governor Larry Hogan announced a series of initiatives to combat human trafficking in Maryland by providing additional support for trafficking victims and pursuing innovative strategies and harsher punishments for traffickers.
The governor made the announcement at the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services in Rockville, Md., where he was joined by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett; founder and director of the University of Maryland “SAFE” (Support, Advocacy, Freedom and Empowerment) Center for Human Trafficking Survivors and Former Deputy U.S. Trade Ambassador Susan Esserman; Montgomery County Police Assistant Chief Marcus Jones; Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) Glenn Fueston; Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith; and Secretary Lourdes Padilla of the Maryland Department of Human Services; along with other federal, state, and local officials, as well as stakeholders and advocates committed to fighting human trafficking in Maryland.
“As governor, I am committed to ensuring that not only are the violent perpetrators brought to justice, but that we also provide the resources necessary to help survivors recover and rebuild their lives,” said Governor Hogan. “One of our most important responsibilities is to protect Maryland citizens, and human trafficking strikes at the very fiber of our Maryland communities, our families, and our children.”
The measures announced today include: a new executive order creating an Anti-Human Trafficking Director position; a new crime, research, and innovation center; strengthened data collection; an updated identification protocol; $5 million in funding for anti-human trafficking efforts; and legislation to categorize felony human trafficking as a violent crime. The governor also announced more than $4 million in new grants to target gangs and violent criminal networks as part of the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network (MCIN).
The governor signed Executive Order 01.01.2018.19, which creates an Anti-Human Trafficking Director for the state. This position, housed within GOCCP, will serve as the Hogan administration’s lead on human trafficking and will coordinate supportive services for victims as well as advise on enforcement responses to human trafficking.
Governor Hogan also announced a $500,000 grant being awarded to the University of Maryland to help create a Maryland Crime Research and Innovation Center. The Center, a partnership with the University of Maryland, College Park, will serve as a hub for criminal justice excellence within the School of Public Policy. This center will focus on developing law enforcement solutions, victim services, prevention efforts, and other criminal justice programs.
“Working together with Governor Hogan and the state, we are committed to increasing protections for current and potential human trafficking victims,” said County Executive Leggett.
The governor also announced $5 million in funding to provide human trafficking victims with direct services such as emergency shelter; 24-hour talk-line; trauma-informed therapy; peer groups; support services including housing assistance, job training, life skills, economic empowerment, GED and vocational training; assistance obtaining a driver’s license or transportation to and from appointments, court appearance; legal advocacy; victim advocacy and system navigation; and street outreach.
“Human trafficking has caused immense trauma to victims and their families across Maryland for years,” said Ambassador Esserman. “Combating human trafficking requires public-private collaboration to bring perpetrators to justice and empower victims to rebuild their lives.”
To ensure Maryland is identifying and providing services to child victims of human trafficking, the Child Advocacy Center Best Practices Workgroup, co-staffed by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, the Maryland Children’s Alliance, and the Department of Human Services, is researching and developing a protocol to identify and provide services to child human trafficking victims for Child Advocacy Centers. This will broaden the types of services for child victims using a trauma-informed approach.
“Governor Hogan has made it clear that human trafficking has no place in this state, and we must do all that we can to stop it,” said Director Fueston. “Stopping human trafficking requires a unified approach that shows perpetrators we are watching them while letting their victims know that we are here to assist them. This takes all of us working together.”
Governor Hogan will reintroduce the Felony Human Trafficking Act of 2019, which will classify felony human trafficking – cases in which the perpetrator trafficks a child or trafficks a victim with the intent to forcibly compel the victim to perform a sexual act – as a violent crime. This classification will ensure that offenders will serve more time in prison. This legislation was introduced in the 2018 Legislative Session, and ultimately did not pass.
Finally, the governor announced more than $4 million in new MCIN grants to 13 counties to target gangs and violent criminal networks. MCIN is a key element of Maryland’s public safety strategy that enables law enforcement to identify, disrupt, and dismantle criminal networks through collaboration and comprehensive data sharing. Montgomery County will receive $257,000 in MCIN funding.
“The Montgomery County Police Department is committed to preventing violent crime, which includes human trafficking,” said Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger. “Our goal is to investigate these serious incidents and bring violators to justice.”
With a focus on leveraging federal and local partnerships, the governor announced that as a part of MCIN, GOCCP has initiated a pilot project with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Baltimore Police Department, the Prince George’s County Police Department, and the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center to improve information sharing of case data and to collaborate in real-time with all Maryland agencies to better identify human trafficking networks, as well as their victims.
Today’s announcement follows the governor’s January 2018 rollout of a series of legislative proposals and measures to further protect, support, and empower victims of crime in Maryland. Earlier this year, Governor Hogan also signed an executive order requiring all state agencies and departments to prominently display information about the National Human Trafficking Hotline and the BeFree Textline on the homepages of their websites. In 2015, Governor Hogan signed into law the establishment of a Workgroup to Study Safe Harbor Policy for Youth Victims of Human Trafficking. The legislation tasked the workgroup with studying legal protections and the provision of services for youth victims of human trafficking. The 2017 final report can be found here.
“While it is critical for us to aggressively pursue human traffickers, we must never, ever forget the victims,” said Governor Hogan. “This type of crime shatters a person’s sense of security. Much too often it can leave wounds that are often unseen and which sometimes never truly or fully heal. In Maryland, we have worked hard to create a system of justice which restores victims and strengthens communities, a system that empowers victims, gives them the resources they need to become safe, self-sufficient, and better informed, and works to break the cycle of criminal victimization.”
More information about human trafficking in Maryland may be found at https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/maryland; http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org/ and http://goccp.maryland.gov/victims/rights-resources/human-trafficking/.