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Howard County holds first conference on human trafficking awareness and prevention

October 26, 2018

Media Contacts:
Deidre McCabe, Director of Strategic Planning and Communications, 410-313-4023 
Sidney Ford, Coordinator, Office of Human Trafficking Prevention, Department of Community Resources and Services, 410-313-6558

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman and the Office of Human Trafficking Prevention today held the first Howard County conference to highlight efforts to identify, eliminate and prevent sexual and labor trafficking in the region. 

The more than 140 individuals attending the conference heard from survivors, national experts and law enforcement officers and spent the day strategizing about ways to combat the problem.

“The sexual exploitation of children, adult sex trafficking and labor trafficking continue to occur in Howard County, despite our increased efforts to fight it. And every day this goes on, more people are victimized,” said Kittleman, who kicked off the conference. “Today, we heard from courageous survivors and their efforts to advocate for enforcement and awareness. We heard from experts, law enforcement officers and others involved in the fight. I believe working together, we can stop this horrible crime.”
 
Recent Howard County initiatives to combat human trafficking include: hiring a human trafficking prevention coordinator and adding a second full-time police detective to investigate cases; passing legislation allowing police officers to investigate massage parlors suspected as fronts for prostitution and human trafficking; creating a forfeiture fund to provide services for survivors: and establishing the Human Trafficking Prevention Coordinating Council.

“I found the power to speak up because I don’t want this to happen to someone else,” said Wendy Schoonmaker, a human trafficking survivor and longtime advocate for victims, who participated in the survivors’ panel. “Change can happen if there are enough people out there who care.”  

In addition to the presentation by survivors, the conference featured a keynote address by Marian Hatcher, Policy Analyst and Victim Advocate for the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff's Office and a national expert on human trafficking and prevention.

“We must work together to assist exploited individuals as they transform from victim to survivor. Survivors’ shared experience and resilience fuels the best society has to offer, in life changing programs, policies and legislation,” said Hatcher. “We must leave no victim behind.” 

Breakout sessions included: “Social Media and Human Trafficking;” “The Bottom Girl Phenomenon;” and “Human Trafficking Legislative Initiatives.” “A Call to Action,” an interactive panel discussion, and “Sworn Officers’ Symposium” addressed current enforcement efforts, as well as next steps.

“Moving forward, our Office of Human Trafficking Prevention will continue to work closely with state and local law enforcement, while building a strong coalition of non-profit partners and victim advocate groups, survivors and residents,” said Jackie Scott, Director of the Department of Community Resources and Services. “Working together, we can end human trafficking in Howard County. We will pursue every strategy out there.” 

For more information on the Howard County Office of Human Trafficking Prevention, contact Sidney Ford at 410-313-6558 or saford@howardcountymd.gov.

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