MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — The Montgomery County Council recognized January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
“It’s a fast-growing and very complicated problem. A lot of the public is still not very aware of it,” said Council Vice President Tom Hucker.
In 2019, Montgomery County Police reported 29 cases of human trafficking and charged 92 people.
Of those 92 charged, 88 of them were for prostitution and sex buying offenses. Three were charged for human trafficking and one was charged for assaulting a county employee who was inspecting an illegal spa. Police also seized nearly $455,000.
“Their passports are held, their IDs are held, their families are threatened. Their lives are threatened. They’re abused and beaten. And it’s happening right here, in our county,” said Councilmember Craig Rice.
The council is passing legislation to combat forced labor and sex work in the county.
Hucker said, “we’ve required licensing for bodyworks establishments that have been sites of human trafficking in the past. Those establishments couldn’t be used as a hub for non-licensed people who are just being trafficked.”
“We’re gonna put a full-court press on this, we want to make it impossible to do this business in Montgomery County,” said county executive Marc Elrich.
Lawmakers want to provide more support for local survivors of human trafficking, while maintaining a focus on prosecuting those who contribute to the problem.
“At the request of our police, I put in legislation to create a civil citation and now that’s resulted in a lot of citations but in criminal convictions as well,” said Hucker.
The council also recently created a Human Trafficking Prevention Committee.