AG Announces Human Trafficking Strategic Plan 1-2615 10/25/15 10:04:12 PM
Printer Friendly Version
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (at the podium) was joined by (left to right, behind the AG) Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and AGO Human Trafficking Coordinator Stephen O’Meara and others when he announced his strategic plan to combat human trafficking.
AG Announces Human Trafficking Strategic Plan
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, joined by Stephen Patrick O’Meara, AGO Human Trafficking Coordinator, recently announced his strategic plan for combating human trafficking at the State Capitol Rotunda in Lincoln. Since taking office, Peterson has expressed commitment to battling against human trafficking.
This effort began with his legislative package including a bill to strengthen penalties related to human trafficking. LB 294 was sponsored and prioritized by Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk, and signed into law by Gov. Pete Ricketts on May 19, 2015.
Peterson was joined by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry in March of this year for a Roundtable discussion with recognized concerned leaders working to combat trafficking in our state. During the Roundtable, the Attorney General committed to structuring a strategic plan. Attendees of the discussion provided input of ideas they believed would benefit the construction of the plan.
Following the Roundtable, Stephen O’Meara, recently retired Assistant U.S. Attorney, agreed to commit his experience and expertise towards serving the State in the Attorney General’s Office as Human Trafficking Coordinator. His first project was the completion of an application for a $600,000 federal grant by the Office of Justice Programs from the U.S. Department of Justice. The AGO was awarded the three-year grant, which began October 1, 2015.
The recent announcement was attended by two dozen people, including partnering organizations and members of several state agencies, as well as numerous honored guests.
“Today is not about any one of us, but rather, all of us joining together to unite in our efforts to preserve the value and dignity of human life in our state,” said Peterson.
O’Meara unveiled the overview of a 69-page Report and Recommendations Regarding Establishment of the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force (NHTTF). The NHTTF consists of an advisory group as well as three working groups and three operational components. The working groups include service, law enforcement, and community partner. The NHTTF will be a coordinated, multi-disciplinary, victim-oriented, statewide response to human trafficking, which will have Response Teams providing the necessary support and service in implementing the work designated by the NHTTF.
Neb. Human Trafficking Task Force (NHTTF)Effective October 1, 2015, the Attorney General, in conjunction with the Salvation Army, was awarded an OVC-BJA “Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking” grant from the United States Department of Justice in the amount of $1.5 million ($900,000.00 to the Salvation Army; plus $600,000.00, to the Attorney General) to assist in establishing the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force (NHTTF).
The Attorney General and the Salvation Army will, in a collaborative manner, administer the grant in aid of establishing the NHTTF. The NHTTF seeks to: help victims/survivors of human trafficking; stop human traffickers; and reduce the human trafficking market. The NHTTF will do this by calling everyone in Nebraska, according to that person’s role in the community, to: realize that human trafficking exists throughout Nebraska; recognize signs of human trafficking; and respond appropriately.
Under this “best beginning point” and multi-agency collaborative plan, the Attorney General and the Salvation Army will be advised by an advisory group, including among others, representatives of Nebraska DHHS, the Nebraska Courts, federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutors, Native American tribes, and private sector entities involved with human trafficking. The Advisory Group promotes the process of bringing agencies together to address human trafficking in a unified, integrated manner – to “weave” these entities together to enhance services, enforcement, and a community response. Under this unified approach, various state agencies will also, in part, jointly satisfy their mandates under the Strengthening Families Act of 2015.
The Advisory Group is further augmented by three Working Groups and Committees there under: the Services Working Group (to enhance services for victims/survivors of human trafficking); the Enforcement Working Group (to enhance law enforcement to identify and pursue rescue of victims, and prosecution of human traffickers and legally culpable buyers of human trafficking services and goods); and, the Community Partners Working Group (to raise awareness in the general community and targeted industries/professions, such as health care, education, hospitality, transportation, agriculture, and faith communities; and promote appropriate community responses to human trafficking).
The NHTTF will have a coordinated, multi-disciplinary, state-wide response to human trafficking, consisting of: a State Human Trafficking Response Team (to handle more complex or long-term cases across Nebraska); Regional Human Trafficking Response Teams, organized initially in NSP regions (to provide proactive and intermediate case response, and backup to local human trafficking response); Local Human Trafficking Response Teams or capability, where feasible (to provide immediate response capability).
The NHTTF rests on various premises, among them are:
• Human trafficking, including sex trafficking and labor trafficking (including trafficking of girls, women, boys, and men, exists throughout Nebraska, and has potentially very serious and lasting consequences to its victims.
• Victims/Survivors of human trafficking, wherever they may be found in Nebraska, should have protection and necessary services, which should be available “24/7/365.”
• Prescreening, screening, and assessment of human trafficking victims/survivors is potentially a continuing process for any victim/survivor, and should be met with a systematic, trained, and “well-disposed” response throughout that process.
• Helping victims/survivors should be a first priority; but, helping a victim, while failing to stop that victim’s trafficker, tends to promote making another victim. The NHTTF should “help victims/survivors, stop traffickers, reduce the human trafficking market.”
• To successfully address human trafficking, the NHTTF should appropriately “weave” together services, enforcement, and community response. The NHTTF should “build, balance, and blend” a statewide, integrated, victim-oriented system.
• The NHTTF should establish, maintain, and promulgate a comprehensive list of available human trafficking service providers and designated law enforcement contacts throughout Nebraska.
• Failing to pursue human traffickers, as human traffickers, “feeds” human trafficking – that is the most serious, readily probable offense should be sought against human traffickers.
• Human trafficking does not exist but for its market. “Buyers” ultimately make the market. “No buyers – No market.” “Buyers” should be aggressively pursued and deterred from continuing as “buyers.”
• All law enforcement officers in Nebraska should recognize basic signs of human trafficking and be able to affect rescue and/or arrest as needed.
• Law enforcement, working appropriately in concert with services and community partners, should form a state-wide anti-human trafficking system capable of providing reactive enforcement, emphasizing proactive enforcement, and having available meaningful complex/long-term enforcement.
• Needed anti-human trafficking tools and training should be assembled and provided to multi-disciplinary, anti-human trafficking groups across Nebraska.
Neb. Human Trafficking Task Force Working GroupsUpon their return to Nebraska, following the design proposed by the Attorney General’s Office based generally on the format contained in the OVC-BJA grant application, the core group began bringing together various people into three working groups. These working groups, established or being established by the core group, are the Services Working Group, the Enforcement Working Group, and the Community Partners Working Group. These working groups currently function or are being formed to share information and ideas, and make recommendations to the NHTTF Coordinator toward the establishment of the NHTTF. Membership in a working group can be fluid, with persons added to enhance the role of the working group, including among other reasons, to enhance expertise or to enhance geographic representation.
The Services Working Group (Service Providers) is composed of people from entities providing services to victims/survivors of human trafficking and people in certain entities, which are in critical positions for referring victims/survivors to such services.
The Services Working Group currently includes: the core group; a human trafficking survivor-advocate; plus representatives of the Juvenile Court; the Nebraska Alliance of Child Advocacy Centers; the Nebraska Coalition To End Sexual And Domestic Violence; Catholic Charities; Lutheran Family Services; Heartland Family Service; The Salvation Army; Methodist Women’s Hospital-SANE/SART (Omaha); The Women’s Center for Advancement; Central Nebraska Human Trafficking Immigration & Outreach; and Justice For Our Neighbors. Additional subject matter will include specific representation from Nebraska DHHS and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office. This group is being expanded, in part, to address labor trafficking.
The Enforcement Working Group (Law Enforcement) is composed of people engaged in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases, including some involving human trafficking, and persons associated with this function, including victim specialists.
The Enforcement Working Group includes: the core group and representatives from the Attorney General’s Office (including victim services specialist); the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office; the Nebraska Crime Commission; the Nebraska State Patrol; the Federal Bureau of Investigation/Omaha Child Exploitation Task Force (both investigators and victim services specialist); Omaha Police Department; Lincoln Police Department; the Platte County Attorney’s Office; the Norfolk Police Department; the Dawson County Attorney’s Office (both prosecutors and victim services specialist); Methodist Women’s Hospital – SANE/SART (Omaha); Lexington Police Department; Kearney Police Department; Scottsbluff Police Department; Dawson County Sheriff’s Office; United States Department of Homeland Security; United States Attorney’s Office; and the Douglas County Attorney’s Office.
The Community Partners Working Group is just being constructed. It will consist of representatives of entities more likely than the general public to encounter incidents of human trafficking or victims/survivors of human trafficking, or having particular opportunity to promote awareness or intervention/prevention regarding human trafficking. This group includes representatives of industries or professions regarding: health care, education, hospitality, transportation, agriculture, and faith communities.
The Attorney General provided all in attendance with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline information: 888-373-7888. The NHTRC takes confidential calls and provides interpreters 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Editor’s Note: The Daily Record published an article on Stephen O’Meara’s quest for justice on July 27, 2015. To read the article, visit our website’s home page at www.OmahaDailyRecord.com, click on the “Feature Stories” tab and select Human Trafficking Becomes a Priority.