‘Operation HOPE’ Leads to Recovery of 32 Human Trafficking Victims, Including Minors

A multidisciplinary operation in Arkansas resulted in the rescue, recovery, and identification of seven female human trafficking survivors and another 25 local victims, including children, as part of an ongoing effort to prevent exploitation in the state. The Arkansas State Police and members of the Arkansas Human Trafficking Council conducted the endeavour as part of Operation HOPE (Help and Opportunity to Prevent Exploitation), an initiative to help connect human trafficking victims with resources. According to a statement, the Arkansas Department of Public Safety worked with the Arkansas Human Trafficking Council over a single day to recover the victims and offer a variety of services, including food, lodging, on-site medical services, counselling, therapy and drug rehabilitation. “These concerted efforts will significantly contribute to making Arkansas a place where human trafficking is not tolerated,” ASP Director Colonel Mike Hagar said in a statement. “The dedicated law enforcement community in Arkansas is fully committed to approaching the grim reality of human trafficking with empathy, aiming to rescue victims from the shadows and provide them with the support and care they need to recover.”

Intelligence analysts and law enforcement officers identified the victims around the time of the operation. Authorities removed three children and one adult from environments described as exploitative, vulnerable and unstable situations. The adult received victim services while all the children were taken into protective custody. “Not only do we hunt the wicked, but we also seek out the wounded,” ASP Criminal Investigation Division Commander Major Stacie Rhoads said in a statement. The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, Hot Springs Police Department, Garland County Sheriff’s Office, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Harrison Police Department and the Arkansas Fusion Centre assisted with the operation. The effort also received help from the Regional Intervention of Sexual Exploitation, The Genesis Project, Into the Light, ACASA, Saline County Safe Haven, River Valley Medical Wellness and the NWA Forensic Nurse Team. A similar operation in February led to the identification of five female human trafficking survivors and 30 victims receiving services, according to a statement at the time. The operation, part of Operation HART, took place in Jonesboro in northeast Arkansas.

“The Arkansas law enforcement community and our victim service partners are on a mission to end human trafficking in Arkansas,” Hagar said in a statement at the time. “We are working to give law enforcement the specialized training they need to embrace victims with compassion while they free them from perpetrators of this heinous crime.” Arkansas is not the only state taking steps to address human trafficking within their borders. Last month, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed an anti-child trafficking law that raises the penalty for first-degree human trafficking to a mandatory life imprisonment sentence if the victim is a minor. The bill amends existing laws to allow for further punishment of human trafficking under certain conditions. The legislation, which proponents claim is the “toughest in the nation,” is expected to go into effect on October 1st. “Human trafficking of minors is one of the most heinous and heart-wrenching crimes in America, and because the most defenceless among us are the victims, those found guilty should face the harshest penalties,” Ivey said in a statement. “As human trafficking spreads across the nation, law enforcement everywhere has struggled to keep pace with those who want to harm and exploit innocent victims,” she continued. “Sadly, we’ve witnessed such cases right here in Alabama where human traffickers continue to cavalierly defy our laws, but not anymore.”

Source: Christian Post

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