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Connecticut prosecutors launch regionalized human trafficking taskforce

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Molly Ingram
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WSHU
(R-L) Krystal Rich, Connecticut Children's Alliance executive director, and Sharmese Walcott, Hartford state's attorney, introduced the taskforce.

The Regionalized Human Trafficking Recovery Taskforce has launched in Connecticut.

The taskforce includes local and federal law enforcement, the Hartford State's Attorney's Office, the Department of Children and Families, and the Connecticut Children's Alliance.

The taskforce was created with a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime.

Krystal Rich, Connecticut Children's Alliance executive director, said the taskforce aims to get involved with labor and sex trafficking instances as early as possible.

“We're not just focusing on the cases that have risen to a level where there's, you know, something that can criminally be done,” Rich said. “We're also looking at cases where there are red flags, there are warning signs, there is information and we know something's going on. And we need to provide support to those victims in hopes that eventually we'll have enough information to go forward with an investigation.”

The taskforce will increase prevention efforts, provide victim advocacy and support, and educate and train the community to detect and report potential human trafficking activity.

Connecticut Chief State's Attorney Patrick Griffin helped to secure federal funding.

“We know that while human trafficking affects people across the spectrum, unfortunately, the effects of human trafficking have fallen most heavily on young women of color,” Griffin said. “And by embracing a victim-centered, trauma-informed, multidisciplinary approach to addressing human trafficking, I think that we are seeing what I hope is the beginning of what will be a model for how to handle these cases, not only in the greater Hartford area, but across the state.”

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Molly Ingram
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WSHU Public Radio
Connecticut Chief State's Attorney Patrick Griffin.

Eight police departments have partnered with the taskforce: Bloomfield, East Hartford, Glastonbury, Hartford, Manchester, West Hartford, Windsor, and South Windsor.

Tammy Sneed from the Department of Children and Family Services shared alarming data concerning child sex trafficking — there has been a 98% national increase in online traffickers attempting to lure children.

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Molly Ingram
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WSHU Public Radio
Tammy Sneed, DCF

“The numbers are climbing. DCF from 2020 to 2021, we had a 25% increase in referrals to the department,” Sneed said. “Last year, the data is not final, but we're going to be very close to 300 referrals.”

State Representative Jillian Gilchrest (D-West Hartford) is the chair of Connecticut's Trafficking in Persons council.

“We've heard you,” Gilchrest said. “And so this year's top priority is funding for victim services. I've heard from so many of you that when you're able to identify a victim, as was said, there is not enough support here in the state. And so it'll be my job to push for the funding.”

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Molly Ingram
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WSHU Public Radio
State Representative Jillian Gilchrest (D- West Hartford).

If you think you know of a human trafficking incident, contact the RHTRT tip line at DCJ.RHTRTaskforce@ct.gov or 860-951-9407.

Molly is a reporter covering Fairfield County. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.