State's Human Trafficking Unit takes part in school safety conference

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Jun. 23—ATLANTA — Attorney General Chris Carr's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit recently participated in the Georgia School Safety and Homeland Security Conference to share with Georgia's teachers and public safety personnel important information on how to recognize, prevent, and report trafficking.

"Georgia's teachers are in a unique position to not only recognize the signs associated with a trafficking victim but to connect with students in a way that few others can outside the classroom," Carr said in a news release. "Knowledge is key, and our Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit is working to equip teachers with important information to help protect Georgia's children from this horrific industry.

"We are using all resources at our disposal to identify, locate and rescue victims, and we are grateful to school personnel across the state who have joined us in this fight."

Hosted by the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and the Georgia Department of Education, the Georgia School Safety and Homeland Security Conference is the state's premiere and longest-running conference for school safety. The conference started in 2009 and has since grown to a three-day event with more than 500 participants learning first-hand experience from the state's education and public safety personnel.

As part of the conference, Unit Chief Hannah Palmquist and Victim Advocate Katie LaBrie presented the following tips to Georgia teachers, school administration officials, school counselors, school resource officers, public safety personnel, law enforcement and emergency management personnel.

Recognition: Youths who are being trafficked will not present themselves as "victims." It is important to learn the signs so you can help to recognize a potential trafficking victim:

—Vulnerabilities (i.e. unstable home environment, needs being unmet or prior sexual abuse)

—Excessive absences or truancy

—Repeat runaway

—Withdrawn behavior or signs of depression

—Changes in physical appearance or inappropriate attire

—Signs of physical abuse

—Unexplained gifts or money.

Prevention: Don't overlook or ignore the indicators, such as those listed above:

—Engage with the student

—Communicate with other individuals and agencies that may be involved with the student and their family (i.e. courts or truancy panels)

—Recommend training for staff and students.

Training: For information about training options available to the general public, visit the websites listed below:

—The GRACE Commission: https://gov.georgia.gov/first-lady/grace-commission

—The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council: https://cjcc.georgia.gov/human-trafficking-task-force/trainings-and-resources

—The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign: https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign

—The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy: https://georgiacenterforchildadvocacy.org/learn-more/attend-training.html.

Reporting: If you suspect that a student is being sexually trafficked, you should file a report with the following entities"

—School social worker

—Local law enforcement (to include your school resource officer)

—The Children's Advocacy Centers of Georgia — Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Response Team, call the hotline: 1-866-END-HTGA (363-4842)

—Visit the CSEC Response Team website: https://www.cacga.org/csec-response-team/

—The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, call the intake line: 1-855-GA CHILD (422-4453)

As you talk with each entity, let them know if you have already connected with someone from another agency included in the list above. Provide them with the name and contact information of the person with whom you already spoke. This will help to maintain a clear line of communication for all individuals and agencies involved.

To file a report, you will need to provide the following information to the law enforcement entity:

—Student's first and last name

—Student's date of birth

—Legal custodian's first and last name

—Legal custodian's contact information

—Your relationship with the youth (i.e. teacher)

— —Reason for suspected trafficking

Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit: In 2019, with the help of Gov. Brian Kemp, First Lady Marty Kemp and leaders in the Georgia General Assembly, Carr created the first-of-its-kind statewide Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

With the addition of this Unit, the Attorney General's Office is working more closely, effectively, and aggressively with chiefs of police, sheriffs, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, district attorneys, and U.S. Attorneys to ensure buyers and sellers are put behind bars.

In 2021 alone, the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit initiated 25 cases, arrested nine individuals, investigated and prosecuted 51 defendants, and rescued and assisted 107 victims. In January 2022, the unit indicted 15 defendants, including nine individuals charged with solicitation.

During the 2022 legislative session, Carr secured additional resources to expand the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and rescue even more victims.