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State receives $1.7 million from DOJ to combat human trafficking

The U.S. Department of Justice announced it has awarded more than $100 million in funding, including grants to Mississippi recipients, to combat human trafficking and provide vital services to trafficking victims throughout the United States.

The Mississippi State Department of Health received a $900,000 Office of Victims of Crimes grant under the Direct Services to Support Victims of Human Trafficking program, which gives nearly $53 million to 77 organizations to enhance the quality and quantity of services available to victims of all forms of trafficking.

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety received an $800,000 Bureau of Justice Assistance grant for building capacity and operational effectiveness as a core member of collaborative, multidisciplinary human trafficking task forces.  BJA awarded 13 total grants totaling nearly $11 million under the Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking: Supporting Law Enforcement’s Role.

“Human traffickers remain a dire threat to human rights across the globe and their actions pose a serious danger to public safety right here in our own country,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “I’m proud that these resources will help our law enforcement officers and victim service providers hold perpetrators accountable and give victims of these abominable crimes a place to turn for refuge and support.”

“We have made the fight against human trafficking a priority in this office, and today’s DOJ grant awards to our fellow members of the Mississippi Human Trafficking Council will allow us all to do even more of this important work.  It is only through proactive collaboration and diligent cooperation with our law enforcement, victim service providers, and other stakeholders that we will be able to continue to successfully protect victims, prevent trafficking and prosecute these criminals,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, Southern District of Mississippi.

“Preventing and combatting human trafficking is a priority in this District and across our State,” said Chad Lamar, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, noting the importance of these grants in helping to combat human trafficking in Mississippi.  “We are continuing to develop and expand strategic partnerships in efforts to curb human trafficking and raise awareness about this issue across our State and the entire Southeastern region.  We are fortunate to have so many strong partners who are working together to prevent human trafficking in all forms, to hold accountable those individuals who choose to prey on others for their own financial gain, to raise awareness about this critical issue, and to assist and serve victims of these offenses.  These grants will be of tremendous assistance to our recipient partners and will help further the important efforts of our entire state-wide anti-trafficking coalition.”

“The Mississippi State Department of Health is incredibly pleased to receive this $900,000 grant. We look forward to expanding and enhancing the accessibility and quality of services that will benefit victims of all forms of human trafficking in Mississippi. It is also a great opportunity to partner with the Mississippi Human Trafficking Council in its effort to prevent these crimes and protect its victims, and to also prosecute perpetrators of this type of crime,” said Heather Wagner, Director of the Office Against Interpersonal Violence for the Mississippi Department of Health.

“The Department of Public Safety is excited to bring these federal funds to Mississippi to aid the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation in formulating official law enforcement-led task forces to fight those who choose to traffic human beings in this state,” said Commissioner Marshall L. Fisher.

For a complete list of individual grant programs, award amounts, and jurisdictions that will receive funding, visit: https://ojp.gov/newsroom/pressreleases/2019/ojp-news-10082019_a.pdf

On September 9, 2019, U.S. Attorneys Mike Hurst and Chad Lamar, along with their state partners and other stakeholders, launched the Mississippi Human Trafficking Council, the first-ever, state-wide effort with a mission to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute criminals using a victim-centered, collaborative, and multi-disciplinary model.

The Council is led by three Co-Chairs: (1) Susan Bradley, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Mississippi; (2) Kathlyn Van Buskirk, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of Mississippi; and (3) Ashlee Lucas, Mississippi Human Trafficking Coordinator, Mississippi Department of Public Safety.  The Council has a Steering Committee, five subcommittees (Outreach and Public Awareness; Strategic Planning and Trafficking Protocols; Policy and Legislation; Training; and Victim Services), and multiple small, regional law enforcement task forces that investigate and prosecute human trafficking.

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