BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A bill signed by Governor John Bel Edwards creates the Office of Human Trafficking Prevention. It aims to tackle the underground issue that affects all corners of the state.
Human trafficking in Louisiana is not just in Baton Rouge or New Orleans, but all corners of the state. Sometimes it is disguised as other crimes and is also greatly under reported.
“What we know is that human trafficking is a dark, underground issue,” said Dr. Dana Hunter, the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office Children’s Cabinet. “So the information that our service providers give to DCFS is extremely helpful, however, we know there are victims in homes today and places today that we have no idea about.”
With the creation of the new department, the state will be able to combine reports from agencies across the state as well as law enforcement data of trafficking.
“There’s a provision in the bill that allows state police and local police departments to share information as well as those providers that have previously been providing data to DCFS,” Dr. Hunter said. “So, with that, we hope to really get a more robust number of what this looks like.”
Only about 60 providers report to the Department of Children and Family Services. In their 2020 report they saw 927 cases of human trafficking, with the majority being people of color. Dr. Hunter said with more accurate numbers they will be able to connect survivors with services they need as well as get ahead of the problem and educate vulnerable groups and law enforcement on how to spot if someone is being trafficked.
“In Thibodaux, I’ll just say, when the training was conducted that same week law enforcement was able to make an arrest and they credited the training they had just gone through,” Dr. Hunter said.
Services for people who have been victims of trafficking are often lacking, but the department hopes to get all services working together so a survivor can find what they need to get back to a normal life.
DCFS is thankful for the Governor and the First Lady for making prevention a priority in Louisiana.