Two Howard County Government agencies will receive more than $1 million over the next three years from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to prevent human trafficking and to expand support for survivors. The Department of Community Resources and Services, and the Howard County Police Department, in partnership with HopeWorks of Howard County, received grants through the DOJ and its Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) programs. The funding is designed to help state and local jurisdictions nationwide enhance law enforcement capacity, and to strengthen resources for individuals and families negatively impacted by trafficking. Photos from the announcement can be found here. Video can be found here.
“We are fortunate to have such talented and compassionate people within our departments, who are completely dedicated to saving lives and improving safety for all residents in our communities,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “It’s a priority of mine to eradicate human trafficking – we must and will continue to protect our residents and their families from this devastation, and holistically support victims who have experienced the worst of humanity. We have zero tolerance for sex or labor trafficking of any kind here in Howard County, and we are honored to work side by side with the Department of Justice and other jurisdictions in combatting this criminal practice.”
“The $1.1 million grant received by Howard County’s Department of Community Resources and Services, and the Howard County Police Department, in partnership with HopeWorks of Howard County is critical for providing services to survivors of human trafficking,” said Maryland State Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary. “I was able to pass the Human Trafficking Vacature Act of 2020, in the Maryland General Assembly, allowing survivors to vacate certain criminal offenses related to their human trafficking. These criminal offenses, that survivors were forced to commit by their trafficker, are barriers to obtaining housing, employment and becoming self-sufficient. The grant received by the County takes this legislation a step further in helping individuals to obtain employment, housing, food and other necessary supports that are urgently needed. This grant is great news for Howard County where there is no place for human trafficking.”
Howard County was the only jurisdiction in Maryland to receive funding under the OVC grant in this recent funding cycle, which awarded more than $97.4 million to states and supporting organizations nationwide.
“Our officers see the effects of human trafficking first-hand,” said Police Chief Lisa Myers. “This grant will enable the police department to add another position focused solely on human trafficking, significantly enhance training and equipment for our investigators, and conduct more frequent operations to target traffickers in Howard County.”
“Ensuring that individuals and families are safe and secure in our community is a priority at DCRS,” said Jacqueline R. Scott, Director of the Department of Community Resources and Services. “We are grateful to now have the opportunity to expand our capacity to serve those who have been affected by sex and labor trafficking. Survivors of trafficking are tremendously courageous people and deserve our full effort in helping to bring traffickers to justice and comprehensive, high quality direct services to draw upon when they are ready to do so.
“These are some of the hardest cases to prosecute because of the witness challenges,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Ritter. “We have had great success with them in Howard County because of the multidisciplinary partnerships we have built. This grant will go a long way in helping our partners continue to collaborate with our office as we work to protect victims and the community by holding offenders accountable.”
“Homeland Security Investigations congratulates Howard County on their receipt of this critical grant,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore Special Agent in Charge John Eisert. “These funds will further the vital work of the Howard County Human Trafficking Prevention Coordination Council, building its capacity to identify victims, provide support and assistance, and work towards prosecution of traffickers.”
HopeWorks of Howard County will serve as a partnering organization with DCRS to execute its grant. The organization offers free crisis intervention, case management and emergency resources for survivors of trafficking, and anti-trafficking programming for vulnerable community members.
“HopeWorks is so excited and grateful to work alongside our partners in this opportunity,” said Samantha Samuel-Nakka, Deputy Director of Services for HopeWorks. “We believe it will allow us to make a significant and lasting impact in serving human trafficking survivors in Howard County and Maryland. This exciting opportunity will also enable us to strengthen our prevention efforts by allowing us to expand the scope of stakeholders we engage with to combat this crime.
See additional photos from the event taken by Scott E’s Blog here: