Thursday, September 24, 2015
Thank you, U.S. Attorney [Annette] Hayes, for that kind introduction and for your outstanding leadership as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. It’s a pleasure to be in Seattle this morning and it’s a privilege to join so many inspiring leaders, dedicated professionals and good friends as we discuss the critical efforts underway here and throughout the country to eradicate human trafficking and to support its survivors. I want to take a moment to recognize Assistant U.S. Attorney [Kate] Crisham, Lieutenant [Jim] Fitzgerald of the Seattle Police Department’s Vice & High Risk Victims Unit and Program Manager [Kathleen] Morris of the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network for their tremendous work as co-chairs of this committee and for their extraordinary partnership on this pressing issue. I’d also like to acknowledge Seattle Police Department Chief [Kathleen] O’Toole, who is here today, for making the investigation of human trafficking cases a priority, as well as the International Rescue Committee of Seattle, for its advocacy on behalf of trafficking survivors. Finally, I’d like to welcome the representatives of the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations, as well as the members of local law enforcement agencies who are here today and to thank you for your leadership, partnership and tireless efforts to bring traffickers to justice.
Human traffickers prey on some of the most vulnerable members of our society and their crimes – which are nothing short of modern-day slavery – have no place in this country. One of my top priorities as Attorney General is to deepen our commitment to addressing this vital issue by bringing human traffickers to justice, by assisting trafficking survivors and by securing the rights and dignity of anyone unable to do so for themselves. Of course, as you all know, responding to a crime as complex and as devastating as human trafficking is neither simple nor straightforward. That’s why collaborative efforts like the Washington Advisory Committee on Trafficking are so essential to making the kind of progress on this issue that we would all like to see.
By bringing together state and local leaders, law enforcement officials and legal and social services organizations, this coalition has made its members more effective in performing a variety of important activities – from raising awareness about trafficking in Washington, to identifying and assisting trafficking victims, to obtaining convictions against those who seek to exploit and abuse human beings for sex, for labor and for servitude of all kinds. With your innovative efforts and unwavering commitment, you are demonstrating the power of working together, across traditional professional lines, to bring a comprehensive approach to a daunting and urgent challenge. In just over a decade, Washington Advisory Committee on Trafficking (WashACT) partners have investigated more than 140 potential human trafficking incidents. You have prosecuted more than 60 cases. And you have collaborated to identify and serve more than 340 individual victims.
The positive impact of your work has been felt well beyond Washington State. WashACT leaders have contributed to the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Task Force E-Guide, which provides a road map for other cities and states to set up their own task forces and make them as effective as possible. You have provided training and technical assistance at regional and national conferences. And you have shared your valuable expertise with individuals across the country. Through your collective efforts, you are not only bringing criminals to justice – you are saving the lives and the futures of survivors here at home and nationwide.
The Department of Justice is as dedicated as ever to supporting your work and advancing this fight. In fact, we have been proud to offer funding for both the Seattle Police Department and the International Rescue Committee in Seattle to address and combat human trafficking in Washington since 2004. We are currently expanding a vital interagency initiative – known as the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative, or ACTeam Initiative – that coordinates, streamlines and enhances anti-trafficking work across the Departments of Justice, Labor and Homeland Security – an approach that helped us to double the numbers of cases filed and defendants charged for human trafficking crimes in six pilot cities over the last two years. And with significant additional appropriations from Congress – which tripled our human trafficking-related funding for the Office of Justice Programs this year – we intend to do even more.
Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Justice is expanding our support by awarding $44 million in grant funding to combat human trafficking. These grants – administered by the Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime and the National Institute of Justice – will fund efforts across the country to fight human trafficking, to provide services for survivors and to expand research going forward. The grants include nearly $23 million as part of a DOJ initiative called the Enhanced Collaborative Model, which is designed to bring together law enforcement and victims’ services providers to address human trafficking in a comprehensive way. Seattle is especially familiar with this model, because it is the way you’ve been doing business for years. That’s why I am particularly excited to announce today that Seattle is one of the 16 sites being awarded one of these anti-trafficking awards: the Seattle Police Department and the International Rescue Committee in Seattle will each receive $750,000 over the next three years, for a total of $1.5 million, to support law enforcement efforts and services to victims.
The Enhanced Collaborative Model works through an idea that we all recognize – an idea that is the basis of WashACT and that informs so much of the outstanding work that you are doing every day – that we are all more effective when we are able to work together. That cooperative, comprehensive model will continue to guide the work that we do at the Department of Justice. I am hopeful that – with the continued support of Congress, the Department of Justice and leaders like those assembled here today – we can not only continue our record of success, but expand on it – because as much progress as we’re making on this critically important front, we know that there is much work left to do. And we will be looking to coalitions like WashACT to help lead the way forward.
I want to thank you for your leadership in advancing this vital cause. I want to applaud you for your partnership in getting this crucial work done. And I want you to know that, in the days ahead, the Department of Justice – and the entire Obama Administration – will be standing by your side as we work together to create a future of opportunity, justice and freedom for everyone in this country.