A task force on human trafficking has released a report to address the growing problem of forced labor and sexual exploitation in the state.
In 2013, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted the Arkansas Human Trafficking Act and made human trafficking a felony crime. Brad Phelps, Chief Deputy Attorney General, presented the report’s findings to lawmakers today.
“We suspect there is more human trafficking out there. What this report is designed to do is to help law enforcement investigate those claims, help lawyers and judges be familiar with how to spot a human trafficking case and ensure that we are at the front of the line as far as human trafficking goes," he said in an interview.
The 40-member task force found a lack of training on human trafficking among state and local law enforcement agencies. Phelps said there are several key changes to be made, including better coordination among enforcement agencies.
"Because if you’re well trained and you’re coordinated the enforcement will be a lot easier. And our vision is that after these recommendations are considered by the committee and they are adopted in legislation, we will have a pretty good handle on enforcing this troubling area," he said.
A Denied Innocence Task Force was created last year to address human trafficking involving children. According to the report, that body has investigated 24 complaints and finished 16 operations. Four people have been arrested and charged with state or federal human trafficking related charges involving minors.
The report recommends better training and funding for health service providers and law enforcement, the creation of a statewide board on human trafficking and a bi-annual survey on the issue.
Other recommendations included adding employees to the Attorney General's office to direct hotline calls to law enforcement, funding services for victims and creating a class for individuals charged or convicted of soliciting prostitutes or other related offenses.