(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Arkansas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced today that a working group established under an Executive Order from Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has submitted recommendations to support human trafficking victims and prevent and prosecute human trafficking.
“The coordinated and integrated strategies outlined in this report take direct aim at this reprehensible crime,” said DHS Secretary Kristi Putnam. “DHS is proud to be a part of this important work, and I’m grateful to the many partners and advocates who have joined with us to develop new and better ways to combat human trafficking in Arkansas. It is my hope that these efforts will bring hope to the victims, bring protection to all of our children, and bring the evil perpetrators to justice.”
DPS Secretary Colonel Mike Hagar added, “These efforts will go a long way toward making Arkansas an intolerable environment for human trafficking. The Arkansas law enforcement community is committed to entering the dark world of human trafficking with compassion so that we can pull victims into the light.”
The recommendations include implementing an evidence-based screening tool to identify human trafficking victims; updating training and educational materials; and revising data, information sharing, and state protocols to better serve victims.
“It is important that we take a multidisciplinary and victim-centered approach to combat human trafficking together,” said Col. Hagar, who also serves as Arkansas State Police Director.
The screening tool will be used by law enforcement, first responders, guidance counselors, and essential frontline individuals who might encounter a victim. Effectively identifying victims is the first step to helping them escape human trafficking, so a standardized tool available across the state is a critical starting point. The recommendations also include creating a Human Trafficking Coordinated Response Hub to coordinate responses among law enforcement, child protection services, service providers, and advocacy organizations.
DPS and DHS recently received a $1.5 million, 3-year grant from the Office of Victims of Crime to support these efforts and to establish the Arkansas Human Trafficking Council. The council will be administered by DPS’s Arkansas State Police. The multidisciplinary group will be a collaborative effort between DPS, DHS, and the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office. Goals will be to identify forms of human trafficking, to provide victims access to services, to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases, and to address individualized service needs through a comprehensive array of service providers.
Funds received by DHS will be used to provide victim services, such as branding removal/ modification, legal services, literacy education, childcare, medical/dental care, mental healthcare, crisis intervention and substance use disorder services.
Funds received by DPS will be used to provide equipment and training to law enforcement officers who investigate human trafficking.
The recommendations are being announced days before an inaugural Human Trafficking Summit organized by Attorney General Tim Griffin. The summit, which is free and open to the public, will be held Oct. 16-17 in downtown Little Rock and will feature topics including familial trafficking, trauma informed investigations, human trafficking in the private sector, and strategies to strengthen public and private partnerships.
“Human trafficking is a reprehensible crime. It disregards human dignity, exploits the innocent and shatters lives. My summit will shed light on the global problem of human trafficking and will provide the necessary training to help combat it,” said Attorney General Tim Griffin.