Fighting Human Trafficking Requires More Funding
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. We see this headline frequently. Fighting this crime means funding the agencies that are tasked with this mission.
The funds that the Department of Justice uses to combat human trafficking are broken into two categories: the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), which funds victim services related to prosecutions and task forces, and the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU).
The OJP dollars fund Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces, which are composed of state and local law enforcement, investigators, victim service providers, and other key stakeholders who work in partnership to identify, investigate, and prosecute human trafficking cases and provide comprehensive victim services to victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking crimes are among the most complex we face, and the task forces have been successful in taking a comprehensive and proactive role through a multi-disciplinary approach linking partners from different perspectives.
The HTPU works closely with Assistant United States Attorneys and law enforcement agencies to streamline trafficking investigations, providing victim assistance resources, legal guidance, and coordination between districts who are prosecuting overlapping criminal networks. Additionally, this unit piloted 6 Anti-trafficking Coordination Teams (ACTeams) across the country last year. These teams enhance coordination between the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor and DOJ and led to a 119% increase in investigations in the last year.
In fiscal year 2014, OJP received $14.3 million and the HTPU received $5.3 million. In fiscal year 2015, the OJP received $42.3 million, a 200% increase over the previous year, and HTPU received $5.3 million, the same funding they have received every year since 2010, despite a 56% increase in case load over the five-year period.
The House Appropriations Committee last week approved the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. Unfortunately, the bill that was passed by the committee only allocates $25 million for OJP (a 40% decrease from fiscal year 2015), and continues to fund the HTPU at $5.3 million, which is a flatline of funding, even though the HTPU has seen an enormous increase in investigations.
Let’s hope the full House and the Senate sees how important this funding is to fight modern day slavery. We must put exploiters out of business and bring them to justice. We must reverse the risk-reward equation for all enablers within the network of human trafficking. That means we need to fund these programs.