Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) announced Wednesday that he has established a statewide task force to focus on preventing human trafficking and raising awareness about the issue.
The Arkansas legislature passed major legislation in its 2013 regular session to address human trafficking after the state received a poor grade for its laws on the subject.
The legislation helped move Arkansas off a list of the worst states with respect to efforts to prevent and prosecute human trafficking. Arkansas has gone from the bottom of the rankings to near the top, with the state recently being placed in the top tier of states fighting human trafficking by the Polaris Project, an organization whose goal is to eliminate human trafficking through education and legal remedies.
Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain Home, Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, and Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway were the primary leaders in crafting and pushing through three different pieces of legislation that not only increased penalties for human trafficking in the state of Arkansas, but also worked to increase awareness and reporting while also stopping the prosecution of underaged victims.
In addition to legislation creating the task force, the package also grants immunity to underage individuals who authorities can prove were forced into prostitution, allowing the victims to testify against their assailants without the fear of being charged with a crime themselves.
"We were really among just a handful of states that didn't have the proper laws on the books. We worked together with Polaris and other groups to prepare legislation (to combat human trafficking),” Leding said in an August interview with The City Wire.
TASK FORCE RESPONSIBILITIES
McDaniel’s task force is composed of law enforcement officials, state agency representatives, community leaders and victims’ rights advocates from across Arkansas. Its first meeting will be Nov. 19 at the state Capitol.
“The Attorney General’s Task Force is united in the goals to improve the response to human trafficking in Arkansas and work cooperatively to end this crime,” McDaniel said. “Human trafficking is beneath the dignity of the people of Arkansas, and it takes all of us working together to prevent it.”
The Human Trafficking Act of 2013 calls for the Attorney General to establish the task force to address every aspect of human trafficking in the state, including the forced labor trafficking and sex trafficking of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.
The task force is to develop a state plan to prevent trafficking, work to improve information sharing among governmental and nongovernmental organizations that deal with the issue, raise public awareness of human trafficking and create a training curriculum for law enforcement officials.
TASK FORCE MEMBERS
McDaniel appointed Assistant Attorney General Will Jones and Reagan Stanford of Catholic Charities of Arkansas as co-chairs of the task force.
The task force also includes:
Louise Allison, Executive Director of Partners Against Trafficking Humans
Ronnie Baldwin, Executive Director of the Arkansas Sheriffs Association
Capt. Jeff Basancon, Benton Police Department
Sheriff Marty Boyd, Craighead County Sheriff
Capt. Steven Coppinger, Assistant Division Commander of the Arkansas Fusion Center
Lamar Davis, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Arkansas Governor’s Office
Conner Eldridge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas
Dr. Karen Farst, Arkansas Children’s House
Daniel K. Faulkner, Arkansas Department of Labor
Sgt. Allen Hamby, Little Rock Police Department
Chief Bob Harrison, Texarkana Police Department
Kandi Hause, Little Rock Police Department
Sheriff Doc Holladay, Pulaski County Sheriff
Det. Jennifer Hurd, Little Rock Police Department
Charlene James, North Little Rock Police Department
Stephanie Jira, Little Rock Regional Director of the Not For Sale Campaign
Ken Jones, Director of the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training
Josh Kaplan, U.S. Marshals Service
Avis Lane, Director of the Attorney General’s Community Relations Division
Brian T. Marr, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Secret Service Little Rock Office
Dr. Cheryl P. May, Director of the Criminal Justice Institute
Marc McCune, 21st Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney
Angela McGraw, Executive Director of Women and Children First Arkansas
Bob McMahon, Arkansas Prosecutor Coordinator
Nicholas Nelson, Resident Agent-in-Charge, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Little Rock
Gigi Peters, Executive Director of the UALR MidSOUTH Center
Lt. Jim Potter, Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office
Joyce Raynor, Executive Director of the Center for Healing Hearts and Spirits
Montie Sims, President of the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police
Gerald Spurgers, Supervisory Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Little Rock
Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Director of the Arkansas Department of Health
Christopher Thyer, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas
David M. Tusson, Resident Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, Little Rock
Edgardo Briones Velazquez, Deputy Consul of the Mexican Consulate of Little Rock
Mark White, Arkansas Department of Human Services
Jay Winters, Director of the Arkansas Crime Information Center
Col. Stan Witt, Director of the Arkansas State Police
Lisette Yang, Children’s Protection Center