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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by OVC Director Jessica E. Hart During the FY 2019 Enhanced Collaborative Model Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking Grantee Orientation

Good afternoon, everyone! Domingo [Herraiz], thank you for that introduction and to the IACP for hosting today’s event and inviting me to be here with you today.

I’m so honored to be joining you all here on day 2 of this training. As you all know combating human trafficking is a top priority for the Office for Victims of Crime, the Department of Justice, and this Administration.

I was able to participate for a while yesterday, and am so glad you got to hear from Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katie Sullivan. Anyone who knows Katie knows that she is committed to combating trafficking and structuring DOJ’s resources to best help in that fight. She has been a big proponent of the task forces and the work and results you all have gotten. I’m so grateful for her support.

Katie also mentioned yesterday that we just recently reorganized OJP’s human trafficking efforts. Let me begin by elaborating on this reorganization.

Traditionally, as many of you know, the Department’s human trafficking initiative involved a collaboration between several offices at the Office of Justice Programs, including the Office for Victims of Crime, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, among others.

Recently, the Office of Justice Programs consolidated its human trafficking efforts into one Human Trafficking Division located within my office at OVC. This new division helps streamline the Department’s trafficking work, helps minimize duplication of efforts, and brings together staff from different backgrounds and perspectives to better collaborate. I believe this collaboration will help provide innovative solutions to combat trafficking.

By integrating OJP’s law enforcement, juvenile justice, and victim services trafficking work under one dedicated division, the Department hopes to model the same multidisciplinary approach to addressing the needs of trafficking victims that has worked so well for the multidisciplinary task forces.

I’m very excited about this new Division and believe it will better support the Department’s top priority of combating human trafficking and better support all of you.

I’m looking forward to expanding the Office for Victims of Crime’s relationship with law enforcement to combat this crime and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together. The numbers I have seen from the past are already impressive and I’d hope we can expand on these programs.

Between July 2018 and June 2019, our human trafficking grantees reported serving approximately 9,000 clients and training more than 80,000 service providers, law enforcement officers, and other community stakeholders across the country.

And in a single year, your task forces initiated more than 2,500 investigations nationwide.

I’m also excited to announce that, just as in FY 2019, we are planning to award another $100 million dollars in funding that will go towards prevention and victim identification including transitional housing; services for youth and minor victims; a catalogue of trainings to support all core task force partners and operational topics; and continued task force support.

Katie mentioned yesterday, that two weeks ago, she and I joined Attorney General Barr and Advisor Ivanka Trump to announce the recipients of over $35 million dollars funding. The funding goes to 73 organizations in 34 states will use that funding to provide safe, stable housing and appropriate services to victims of human trafficking.

And we anticipate awarding $5 million of this funding to deliver a wide range of training and technical assistance to collaborative, multidisciplinary task forces. That is more than we have ever funded in a single year.

This funding could not come at a more important time. The social distancing that is necessary to combat the pandemic can also, cruelly, make it harder for trafficking victims to escape their abusers and seek help.

Shelters are also grappling with the increased need for social distancing within their facilities and pressure on the system designed to help trafficking survivors rebuild their lives.

Trafficked children have limited access to their friends, teachers, social workers, and community organizations, leaving them with fewer places to turn to for help.

The multidisciplinary, collaborative anti-human trafficking task forces you have formed in your communities are critical to identifying and assisting all victims of human trafficking and ensuring their traffickers are brought to justice.

I know this will not be easy. Last year, as you drew up plans to develop new task forces or to build on existing task forces, you could not have foreseen the unique challenges you would face in reaching and serving victims during a pandemic.

But just as we have unexpectedly pivoted to virtual meetings and events such as this orientation, I know that you will use all of your resourcefulness to continue to identify human trafficking victims, deliver them with vital services, and investigate and prosecute traffickers and their crimes.

Thank you all for being here today. DOJ and my team here at OVC stand ready to assist you all in the work you do on the front lines. From start to sustainability, we are with you all the way.

I hope the information you take away from this training provides the support you need as you continue this fight.

Thank you again for your time! 

Date Created: August 26, 2020