Howard County will receive more than $1 million in grant money over the next three years from the U.S. Department of Justice to combat human trafficking within the county.
The funding, provided through the Office for Victims of Crime programs at the Department of Justice, will be split among the Department of Community Resources and Services, the Howard County Police Department and HopeWorks of Howard County, the county’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center.
At a news conference Wednesday, County Executive Calvin Ball announced the funding and said it will be used to proactively identify more vulnerable residences and victims of sex and labor trafficking, serve more survivors with services, raise community awareness and bring more traffickers to justice.
“This opportunity is the right time for us to operationalize [a] local human trafficking task force” Ball said Wednesday. “It will allow us to grow our efforts and take our work to the next level while saving lives.”
The announcement comes after police made 11 human trafficking arrests and identified 24 adult victims and three juvenile victims in the past year, according to Ball. Just last month, Howard County police arrested and charged a Baltimore man with human trafficking at an Jessup hotel.
Police Chief Lisa Myers, who also spoke at the news conference, said the funding would allow the police department to add an additional position to the human trafficking team, as well as enhance training and equipment for human trafficking detectives.
Howard police can offer treatment, housing and other help to victims of human trafficking. If someone suspects human trafficking, if they are a victim or know someone who is a victim, they can speak privately to a detective at 911 or 410-313-3200.
At the Department of Community Resources and Services, the money will fund an additional staff person to work within the Office of Human Trafficking Prevention, according to Jacqueline Scott, director of the department. Scott also said the funding will allow the department to increase outreach and education within the county, including training all Howard County employees on human trafficking prevention.
The Department of Community Resources and Services will also complete the community survey that seeks to identify areas within the county where trafficking and exploitation vulnerabilities exist, Scott said Wednesday.
“We are grateful to now have the opportunity to expand our capacity to serve those who have been affected by sex and labor trafficking,” Scott said in a statement. “Survivors of trafficking are tremendously courageous people and deserve our full effort in helping to bring traffickers to justice and comprehensive, high-quality direct services to draw upon when they are ready to do so.”
HopeWorks of Howard County, which offers free crisis intervention, case management and emergency resources for survivors of trafficking, will partner with the Department of Community Resources and Services to utilize the funding.
“We believe [the funding] will allow us to make a significant and lasting impact in serving human trafficking survivors in Howard County and Maryland. This exciting opportunity will also enable us to strengthen our prevention efforts by allowing us to expand the scope of stakeholders we engage with to combat this crime,” Samantha Samuel-Nakka, deputy director of services for HopeWorks, said in a statement.
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Howard County was the only jurisdiction in Maryland to receive funding from the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime grant in this funding cycle, which awarded more than $97.4 million to states and supporting organizations across the country.