Collaboration Fights Trafficking
“I never thought human trafficking was happening here.”
At Call to Freedom, we hear those words nearly every day. They were voiced most recently at the Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (LECC)’s annual conference in early November.
The event brings together men and women serving all facets of law enforcement —from local police departments and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the FBI to the Department of Homeland Security and the division of criminal prosecution — with the purpose of fostering cooperation across entities.
Call to Freedom’s Becky Rasmussen teamed up with representatives from the U. S. Attorney’s Office and Sioux Falls Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit to present on human trafficking in South Dakota.
Rasmussen underscored the importance of working together in her remarks. “Human trafficking is happening here, and because it is, fighting it must be a collaborative effort,” she told the crowd. “We’re honored to work alongside you.”
CTF’s emphasis on collaboration has led not only to its inclusion at events like the LECC, but is also garnering national attention from Shared Hope International, an organization dedicated to eradicating sex trafficking in the U.S. and beyond. Shared Hope grades each state annually on its ability to identify and serve victims of sexual exploitation. South Dakota currently earns a D.
Bleak as that seems, it’s a sign of progress. Not long ago South Dakota was receiving an F grade, but thanks to the joint effort of state Senator Jack Kolbeck and Representative Tom Holmes, the State’s and District Attorney’s offices, and technical assistance from Shared Hope, CTF successfully led the charge to pass three laws that prevent the criminalization of minors who have been trafficked and to increase penalties for buyers.
Call to Freedom was one of three organizations honored by Shared Hope for its grassroots effort. Read their coverage here.
Wrapping up her comments at the LECC annual meeting, Rasmussen points out to the crowd that collaboration begins with everyday citizens. “In many cases, it was a bystander who reported something that didn’t seem right. Those tips can ultimately identify a victim and save a life.”