Law enforcement professionals honing their skills to fight human trafficking

12/01/2016 03:08 PM

FRANKFORT — Prosecutors and police officers from across the state met to discuss ways to combat human trafficking, one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in Kentucky.

Thursday marked the first day of a day-and-a-half training regimen through the National Attorneys General Training and Research Institute.

Attorney General Andy Beshear, whose office is hosting the training, says human trafficking affects every county in the state. He recounted how his office partnered with police in Louisville to save a 14-year-old girl before this year’s Kentucky Derby.

“Thank God you’re here,” Beshear said to more than 100 assembled at his office’s east Frankfort branch. “You may be in your role the only lifeline between a child’s who’s being trafficked and finding safety or continuing a life of significant abuse.”

Law enforcement officials will learn how to better recognize, investigate and prosecute the crime during the voluntary training session that wraps up on Friday.

“Numbers are rising in Kentucky despite the fact that if used properly we have some of the best human-trafficking laws on the books,” Beshear said. “… We have safe-harbor provisions. We have asset-forfeiture provisions depending on the arrest and the prosecution, and we have required screenings and treatment referrals for victims.

“In other words, our structure is in place. What it needs is our focus and our expertise.”

Beshear said reports of human trafficking have increased by about 50 percent every year recently, but one of the biggest impediments to prosecuting those crimes is simply recognizing the signs.

“In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, there’s no such thing as a child prostitute,” he told Pure Politics after his remarks. “That is a child being human trafficked, and people need to see that, whether it’s the terrible examples that we’ve seen of the foster parent selling his foster daughter’s body for furniture or people dressing up their kids in scandalous clothing outside a movie theater and trying to pimp them to folks. That’s human trafficking.

“The biggest impediment is people don’t understand it when they see it, and they don’t know the special investigative techniques that are needed for the laws that are out there so that we can successfully prosecute them. We’re committed to changing that.”

Beshear’s office recently received a $1.5 million grant through the U.S. Department of Justice, which he says will be used to hire a full-time human trafficking investigator, the first of its kind in Kentucky.

The Catholic Charities of Louisville will also be able to provide victim services through the grant.

Beshear says he will announce partnerships between his office and those in the trucking and hotel industries to combat human trafficking.

The nonprofit group Truckers Against Trafficking will soon throw their support behind legislation that will require mandatory human-trafficking training for those who obtain their commercial driver’s licenses, Beshear said.

“Each one is going to get a card that they’ve got to keep in their wallet about how to report human trafficking,” he said. “It’s also in concert with our motor vehicle enforcement folks, who are getting the training to learn how to see it at truck stops and others.”

“The hotel association knows that their folks who come in and stay want a safe, clean, moral environment, and the association is working with us to develop training that can get out all over the commonwealth so anyone, whether it’s the manager or hard-working folks who are cleaning the rooms, can recognize signs when they see it,” he added.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention has also partnered with Beshear’s office, announcing that it would only do business with hotels that train their employees on how to recognize and report suspected human trafficking.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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