Frederick County has announced a new fact-finding task force charged with increasing identification of human trafficking victims and creating a provider network for comprehensive services to victims. The group aims to create a communitywide response protocol to augment coordinated police work being done to address the issue.
The task force will include representatives from the sheriff’s office and city police, the Frederick County Human Relations Commission, the Frederick County Commission for Women, and Frederick Memorial Hospital. The group is expected to begin its work in January, with a final report expected in February 2018.
From The Frederick News-Post,
The measure was introduced by Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D).
“On the enforcement front, we are really starting to be able to identify some of these criminals, and that’s a really wonderful thing. It’s been difficult, however, for service providers and responders to then figure out how to provide services for the victims,” Fitzwater said.
Fitzwater said it’s challenging to meet the needs of trafficking victims because they are reluctant to come forward in the first place.
“We want to be sure we have the best supportive services possible,” she said.
Frederick Police Chief Ed Hargis said the task force could help on two fronts: by educating the community about signs of trafficking and coordinating the non-police response, so officers could concentrate on investigations.
Sgt. Andrew Alcorn underscored that trafficking crimes are being committed in the county, so the task force’s recommendations would be put to work.
He told the council of two recent city cases when police were pressed to find services for trafficking victims.
“I’m strongly in favor of this task force. Mainly because at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, it takes significant resources to try to help these victims,” Alcorn said.
However, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins is concerned the task force’s work could be duplicative, especially because local law enforcement is already committed to fighting human trafficking.
“I don’t want to see it become a recommendation or a mandate for law enforcement to do certain things or [for the task force to] make recommendations that are unrealistic,” he said.
He also underscored recent criminal trafficking investigations, including an operation that shut down two massage parlors in the county.
“I think law enforcement is doing a lot of good things out there,” Jenkins said.
Councilwoman Fitzwater said she understood the concerns, but emphasized the task force will have a relatively narrow focus and is designed to complement the resources currently dedicated to fighting human trafficking in Frederick County.
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