The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation announced Monday, Oct. 7, the formation of a division dedicated to fighting human trafficking in the state.
The division was created in response to a law passed by the Mississippi Legislature earlier this year protecting the health, safety and welfare of children who are suspected trafficking victims. Among its provisions, the law prevents minors from being jailed for prostitution. Any law enforcement officer encountering a minor engaged in prostitution can take him or her into emergency protective custody instead of making an arrest. A report would then be made to Child Protective Services and an investigation would begin to determine if the child was a victim of sexual abuse or neglect.
Human Trafficking is broadly defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person, through force, fraud or coercion, for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude or forced labor or services, according to the DPS website.
Human Trafficking comes in many forms but is most easily categorized as either labor trafficking or sex trafficking.
Labor trafficking involves using force, fraud or coercion to recruit, harbor, transport, obtain or employ a person for labor or services in involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. Victims of labor trafficking can be found in domestic situations such as nannies or maids, sweatshop factories, janitorial jobs, construction sites, farm work, restaurants and panhandling, among others.
Sex trafficking involves commercial sex acts (which includes engaging in sex acts, the production of sexually oriented materials or sexually explicit performances) induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person performing the act is under the age of 18.
Upon the law’s passing, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety immediately began seeking additional funding sources to support the enforcement of this state-wide effort to thwart human trafficking in Mississippi. MDPS has been granted $800,000 in funding under the Department of Justice’s FY 19 Enhanced Collaborative Model Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking.
The grant award is specifically intended to support MBI’s enforcement role in investigating and solving human trafficking crimes.
“The Department of Public Safety is excited to bring these federal funds to Mississippi to aid the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation in formulating official law enforcement led task forces to fight those who choose to traffic human beings in this state,” said Commissioner Marshall L. Fisher in a statement.
The United States Attorney’s office has partnered with the MDPS to establish the Mississippi Human Trafficking Council, which will work to prevent trafficking, protect victims and prosecute criminals in all forms of domestic and international human trafficking, to include commercial sex trafficking and labor trafficking, for the protection of both adult and minor victims.See a typo? Report it here.