Local agencies host inaugural human trafficking summit

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Law enforcement, local hospitals, and more have been tackling the issue of human trafficking since 2016, but now armed with new information, they’re sharing it with community members often on the front lines of the crime.

“We do have key stakeholders from each of the agencies, but the idea was to trickle down into maybe some of the lower-level employees to get their participation, to get their involvement, to also show them that this is happening in Frederick County,” explained assistant state’s attorney for Frederick County and organizer, Lindsey Carpenter.

In 2016, the Frederick County Council created the Frederick County Human Trafficking Task Force to observe the issue and conduct a final report.

The task force found the need to create a multi-disciplinary response team, and standardized training and resources to identify and aid survivors of human trafficking.

And on Friday, members of Frederick County Human Trafficking Response Team, including the Frederick Police Department, Frederick Memorial Hospital, and Heartly House discussed local cases of human trafficking and how the handling of these crimes has changed how survivors are perceived.

“We are able to understand that these are victims, they are not the ones who are actually out committing crime, even though what they’re doing is illegal, they’re not doing it of their own free will,” explained Sgt. Andrew Alcorn with the Frederick Police Department.

Six human trafficking cases were investigated by police in 2018, and about six more in 2017, and officials say more cases of human trafficking are being identified, though sometimes stalled before being prosecuted.

“Unless [survivors] want to reach out to law enforcement, we’re not going to see those cases. But I would say that overall the identification of these cases throughout all agencies has definitely increased,” Carpenter said.  

And officials say that’s because it’s everyday civilians, nurses, social workers, and more who raise a red flag.

“The most successful cases that we’ve had have been with civilians or citizens, who just see something that’s not quite right, that doesn’t sit right in their stomachs, and so they pick up the phone and they call,” Alcorn said.

And taking more initiative is what nurse practitioner, Susan Vonk, hopes to do moving forward.

“I’m going to be a lot more aware when someone comes to me of what resources are available and where to send somebody. I really want to get a flyer that I can put around the office,” Vonk said.

The Frederick County Human Trafficking Response Team anticipated hosting an informational public event later this year.

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