State task force tackles human trafficking in Jonesboro

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Arkansas Attorney General's office hosted a human trafficking focus group in Jonesboro Thursday.

"(Jonesboro) is one of fives sites that we chose to do focus groups at around the state and we're doing sessions for social service providers and law enforcement.," said Reagan Stanford, the co-chair of the Arkansas Attorney General's State Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking.

Stanford said the information gathered from the two-hour long focus group will be used to make recommendations for Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on how to better understand the impact of sex and labor trafficking in the state.

The series of focus groups that consists of social service providers and law enforcement follows lawmakers unanimously passing the Human Trafficking Act of 2013. The act strengthens protection for trafficking victims and penalties for trafficking offenders.

Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd represents Northeast Arkansas on the task force.

"Statistically, human trafficking is one of the largest crimes in the United States right now we have. Therefore, even though we don't have an active case going on right now it is coming to Arkansas and it has been here and it has been through here," Sheriff Boyd said.

There is also a local effort to fight human trafficking. "We have recently started a human trafficking ministry at Central Baptist Church," said group coordinator Megan Mitchell.

"So far we have had a supply drive where we gathered travel size toiletries and clothes to bring to the PATH (Partners Against Trafficking Humans) shelter in Little Rock, and right now we're currently working on planning a 5K for late spring where all the proceeds go back to PATH."

The Washington D.C. based Polaris Project ranked Arkansas as one of four most improved states to have laws that combat human trafficking, along with Wyoming, Mississippi and New Jersey.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline telephone number is 1-888-373-7888.

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