Howard Co. Council approves human trafficking task force

The Howard County Council passed legislation this week that establishes a local task force that will raise awareness and seek solutions to local human trafficking issues.

The legislation, which was introduced by Council member Courtney Watson, was passed unanimously.

"Due to our location along the I-95 corridor and proximity to BWI airport, Howard County is a prime location for this crime and in fact we have had four arrests since 2012. We need to be aggressive in our efforts to make Howard County free of human trafficking", Watson said in a statement.

According to the legislation, the definition of trafficking is "the use of force, threat of force, fraud or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport, provide or obtain any person for labor or commercial sex or to cause a person under 18 to engage in a commercial sex act."

The 19-member task force will include representatives from law enforcement, health care organizations, faith-based groups and a representative from Governor Martin O'Malley's Task Force on Human Trafficking.

Also added to the task force will be a representative from HoCo AGAST, a local group formed in 2011 that has helped raise awareness for the issue.

Sara Cochran, one of the groups co-founders, testified in favor of the legislation at a public hearing last month.

"Streamlined procedures to collect and share data on incidents, victims, and suspects are much needed at the local and state levels in order to obtain grant funding and other monies that will allow the fight against human trafficking to advance," Cochran said.

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