Grant funds training on human trafficking investigation

Nicole Ziege

Attorney General Andy Beshear will host Advanced Human Trafficking Investigation Training from April 19 to April 21 in Louisville after receiving a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice last year, according to a news release from the Kentucky attorney general’s office.

The three-day training is designed for police officers, prosecutors and judges, with a special focus on task force members, Dennis Cusick said. Cusick is an executive director for the Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute, course coordinator and training provider.

“For the past 10 years, the department has taken a primary responsibility of providing training to the task forces throughout the United States,” Cusick said.

The training is a one-time event and will be an intensive training on investigating human trafficking. Around 65 people are planning to attend, Allyson Taylor, the director of the Office of Child Abuse and Exploitation Prevention, said.

Human trafficking reports to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services have increased from 51 victims in 2013 to 169 in 2015, an increase by more than 300 percent, according to the State Journal.

Although he has not received statistics from the attorney general, Cusick said he assumed the increased number of reports meant the awareness of the crime was increasing, rather than the crime.

“One of the reasons why we are seeing such an increase is because state departments have made it a serious mission to investigate human trafficking cases,” he said. “More importantly, because of all the media attention being made to this, the citizenry has become more aware. The commitment of law enforcement to do investigations is definitely increasing.”

Taylor said she does not think human trafficking has increased.

“I think it’s gotten to the point now where people are recognizing it and learning how to spot signs of human trafficking,” Taylor said.

Cusick said there is “no question” this kind of specialized training helps because human trafficking cases are “very complex.”

“It often involves several states almost simultaneously because it is so heavily driven by the Internet,” Cusick said.

The vast majority of cases Cusick sees involve young people, mostly girls, between 12 and 15 years old. He said human trafficking is “destroying the lives of our children.”

“They are lured into this on false promises and made to, by sometimes severe force, comply with their traffickers and engage in sex for money, up to as many as 40 customers a day,” he said.

Cusick said another reason why human trafficking cases are “very complex is that it takes “unusual partnerships” between the police, the prosecutor and those who are responsible for the victim.

“You need the victim to be healthy; you need the victim to recover, hopefully to resume a normal life and at the same time, do a criminal investigation that ends up in a criminal prosecution without re-victimizing the victim,” he said.

Taylor, who has worked in her position since it was created in January 2016, expressed her enthusiasm for being a part of the training.

“I’m excited that we’re going to provide quality training for our local law enforcement,” Taylor said. “Budgets being what they are, this is an opportunity to get top-of-the-line federal training for the prosecution and prevention of human trafficking.”

Cusick said he wants to commend Kentucky for creating the task force, which is called the Kentucky Human Trafficking Task Force, and for getting the training so the task force functions.

“Kentucky has a wonderful task force environment with the state police and the attorney general’s office,” Cusick said. “That’s exactly the model that we hope exists throughout the country.”

Reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at (270) 745-0655 and [email protected].