BROCKTON — The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the Plymouth County District Attorney’s office and Brockton-based Health Imperatives $1.5 million to help investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases and provide aid to victims.
The district attorney’s office and nonprofit each got $750,000 as part of Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs.
The district attorney’s office said it will use the money to hire a prosecutor dedicated to its Human Trafficking Unit, and, along with Health Initiatives, create the Plymouth County Human Trafficking Task Force to address human trafficking and help the victims the crime leaves in its wake.
“My office continues to aggressively prosecute those who manipulate, abuse, and sell human beings for profit,” Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz said in a statement . “At the same time, we work just as hard to provide access to trauma sensitive services to help victims recover and return to a healthy and safe life. We are grateful to the Department of Justice for once again funding our innovative initiatives here in Plymouth County, and we believe our strong partnerships, with agencies like Health Imperatives, puts us in the best position to receive these funding opportunities.”
The organizations said the task force will be made up of a “diverse array of community stakeholders relevant to addressing human trafficking issues.” The task force hopes to include members from local hospitals, educational institutions, law enforcement, nonprofits and faith communities. The district attorney’s office and Health Imperatives said they will hire a project coordinator for the task force, who will work with the task force’s executive committee to promote services and improve public awareness and survivor outreach efforts.
The project coordinator will conduct a community assessment to update data and determine where outreach is needed in the county, according to a press statement.
“We are honored to partner with the Plymouth Country District Attorney’s Office to create a collaborative task force to address human trafficking. We are seeing increasing numbers of human trafficking victims across our programs and services,” said Julia Kehoe, president and CEO of Health Imperatives in a statement. “This grant allows us to put a spotlight on this critically important issue and work together with the District Attorney’s office to identify strategies that will increase awareness of human trafficking in our community and deliver much-needed services to victims.”
Health Imperatives is a nonprofit that aims to address the health and safety needs of low-income, vulnerable individuals and families in Southeastern Massachusetts, including in places like Plymouth and Brockton.
The task force plans to create a law enforcement subcommittee comprised of the district attorney’s office and local, state, and federal law enforcement, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. The subcommittee will be dedicated to sharing human trafficking intelligence, discussing investigations, coordinating cross-jurisdictional efforts and referral of cases, according to the district attorney’s office.
Cruz’s office said grant money will also be used to purchase cellphone investigative technology, and two laptops to present digital evidence at trial, which is significant to improving conviction rates.
Health Imperatives said it would use the grant money to elevate their services for trafficking victims by developing a human trafficking unit within their Violence Intervention and Prevention Department. The nonprofit said it plans to have the unit include a survivor specialist, who will execute human trafficking direct service intervention programming, and an outreach and training coordinator, who will develop trainings for staff and external partners.
Health Imperatives said it will also use the grant to have “victim-centered, trauma-informed services” to guide victims to specialized human trafficking programs when victims are identified, alongside victims identified through the collaboration.