Governor Malloy signed into law a bill that gives law enforcement an additional tool to investigate domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and also expands access to services to victims of child exploitation
Governor Dannel P. Malloy has signed into law a bill that gives law enforcement an additional tool to investigate domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and also expands access to services to victims of child exploitation. In addition, the Governor today announced the launch of a new law enforcement education initiative that will enhance the effectiveness of investigations and prosecutions of this crime.
“That there have been 300 child victims of human trafficking have been reported in Connecticut since 2008 is stunning – and people want action,” Governor Malloy said. “As we work towards smart policing and a more effective criminal justice system, ending the trafficking of children has to be a central component. It’s, simply, a moral issue. If law enforcement, social workers, and other professionals have access to the tools they need, we can help the victims and more effectively prevent this type of horrible crime. That’s why these steps are so important.”
The new law gives authorities the ability to seek authorization to use wiretaps in investigating DMST, while expanding access to health care, support, and counseling services for victims. In addition, it broadens the definition of the crime for minor victims and enables minor victims to seek compensation from the Office of Victim Services even if they file an application two years after the crime occurs.
Governor Malloy today also announced that law enforcement officials, including police and prosecutors, Department of Children and Families (DCF) intake social workers, professionals who serve on multi-disciplinary teams, and others will receive intensive investigations training to assist in the criminal prosecution of DMST. The first three-day course is being offered August 3rd through 5th for New Haven-area professionals at the University of New Haven Orange Campus.
DCF is coordinating the training, which is being conducted by the Upper Midwest Police Training Institute and funded through a federal grant. The same course will then be offered later this year and next year to professionals in the Hartford and Bridgeport areas. The institute selected Connecticut as one of the sites for this advanced investigations training after learning that the state has been a leader in combatting DMST over the last several years.
DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said the state agency has worked hard to create awareness among law enforcement and other professionals as well the general public that human trafficking is not just an international and national problem, but that it afflicts Connecticut as well.
“Tireless efforts have been made to educate Connecticut about this awful victimization of innocent children here in our home state with training, a well-attended statewide conference last year, and focused interest from the media,” Commissioner Katz said. “That education process was needed before we could enact legislation and put into place the training and resources to respond both with the services to help the child victims and the effective investigation and prosecution of the exploiters whom we must aggressively pursue.”
This education effort is the latest in a wide-ranging response to DMST underway since 2011. Commissioner Katz has made combatting DMST a priority for the administration and has focused efforts to identify victims through statewide training and awareness activities.
DCF has conducted training for hundreds of staff and police officials, including 350 New Haven police and 350 Hartford police. The department sponsored a conference in early 2014 that drew statewide participation and attention.
Connecticut also has enacted legislation the last several years – including again this year – to ensure victims are not prosecuted, to ensure reporting to DCF, to strengthen penalties against traffickers, to establish “multi-disciplinary teams” to work with trafficking cases, and other measures to protect victims.
DCF has been working closely with the University of New Haven, which will develop and offer specialized training intended for law enforcement personnel tasked with investigation of large-scale human trafficking cases and networks. This will include advanced, ongoing capacity-building training for all other interested parties, social workers, DCF investigators, state prosecutors, and health care workers.
The bill signed into law by the Governor includes the following measures:
- Increases access to counseling, support and health care services for victims;
- Expands conditions under which a court must order erasure of any criminal record of a victim resulting from human trafficking or related federal crimes;
- Expands the tools available to law enforcement when investigating DMST by including it on the list of crimes for which wiretapping may be authorized;
- Expands the crime of human trafficking by broadening the conditions under which the crime is committed when the victim is a minor; and
- Allows the Office of Victim Services to waive the two-year limitation on compensation applications for minors who are victims of human trafficking.