ROCKVILLE – Calling Maryland a hotbed for human trafficking, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced several initiatives to combat the problem plaguing the state.
Hogan signed an executive order Thursday creating the new position of anti-human trafficking director, an appointed position to help combat the problem. In addition, Hogan announced new funding for a variety of programs to help research and develop solutions to human trafficking.
Finally, Hogan said he would support a bill, which legislators will introduce on the first day of the 2019 legislative session in January that will increase time served for some felony human traffickers.
Hogan said three regions in Maryland are hotspots for human trafficking: Baltimore, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.
“The chilling reality is that Maryland’s central location and access to major highways and airports like I-95 and BWI make our state a hotbed for human trafficking,” Hogan said.
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Human trafficking is the transportation of people for the purposes of forced labor or sexual slavery. Many of the victims are young and female. Both the state and the County have both forms of human trafficking – forced labor and sexual slavery.
Hogan briefly choked up, as he delivered his prepared remarks saying as a father himself it was hard for him to comprehend the suffering that many human trafficking victims have gone through.
“As a father, you know I’m heartbroken for these daughters and sons who are being victimized and brutalized,” Hogan said.
As part of the state’s initiative to combat the problems, 13 counties will receive $4 million of Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network grants to identify and dismantle criminal networks that are trafficking people. Montgomery County will receive $257,000 in MCIN funding.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said that despite Montgomery County’s affluence it is among the top places in the state and country for human trafficking.
“In the state of Maryland, which is one of the better educated communities in all of the United States – probably one of the more affluent – we have a problem that people often do not identify with a state such as Maryland and certainly, a jurisdiction such as Montgomery County,” Leggett said.
According to Montgomery County Police statistics, there have already been 11 incidents of human trafficking in the County in 2018, up from four total in all of 2017.
Hogan also announced support for the Felony Human Trafficking Act of 2019.
Last year, Senator Susan Lee (D-16), sponsored a bill that would increase prison time for people convicted of felony human trafficking, by reclassifying some human trafficking crimes as violent crimes. The reclassification will apply to human trafficking crimes where a person is convicted of trafficking a child or a person with the intent to make the victim perform a sexual act.
While Lee’s bill passed the Senate in the last legislative session, the bill failed to pass the House of Delegates because of a lack of time left in the legislative calendar, Lee said.
“I think we just ran out of time, like a lot of bills,” Lee said. “There were so many bills during the 2018 legislative session. There were a number of bills that didn’t get through.”
In addition, Hogan announced the state will provide $5 million in funding to help assist victims of human trafficking with services such as providing emergency shelter, housing assistance, job training, a 24-hour hotline and trauma therapy.
As part of the slew of proposals, the University of Maryland will receive $500,000 in funding from the state to help create the Maryland Crime Research and Innovation Center that will focus on developing law enforcement solutions and other prevention programs to help combat human trafficking.