'Progress' in Fighting Sex Trafficking, a Top Administration Target; 'It's Happening Right Here' in U.S

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 4, 2012 | Go to article overview

'Progress' in Fighting Sex Trafficking, a Top Administration Target; 'It's Happening Right Here' in U.S


Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Sex trafficking is a big moneymaker for criminals and a scourge to society, a top Justice Department official said Thursday, adding that traffickers callously seek to furnish their market with women, girls and boys who have been cast out by society and whose options are few.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, who heads the department's Office of Justice Programs, said during a speech in Boston that many of the victims are young people - not even teenagers - who are looking for the home they've never had.

What they find, instead, are betrayal, cruelty and abuse. And sadly, too often our systems of support and justice have offered no quarter, she said.

Ms. Leary oversees an annual budget of more than $2 billion dedicated to supporting state, local and tribal criminal justice agencies; an array of juvenile justice programs; a wide range of research, evaluation and statistical efforts; and comprehensive services for crime victims.

The former executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, a leading victim-advocacy organization in Washington, and a former U.S. attorney in the District, Ms. Leary said law enforcement authorities have much work to do - in raising awareness, changing attitudes and meeting the needs of those who are exploited.

But the good news is we are making progress, she said, adding that in an era of diminishing federal dollars, the Justice Department has directed substantial resources to fighting human trafficking.

Last year, she said, Justice made more than $9 million available to bolster anti-human-trafficking efforts, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office for Victims of Crime support 28 task forces dedicated to investigating trafficking crimes and providing culturally competent victim services.

Ms. Leary said that in a 2 1/2-year period ending in June 2010, the task forces investigated more than 2,500 incidents of human trafficking and arrested 144 suspected traffickers. …

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