Louisiana is getting a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Justice to help prevent human trafficking.
The state will receive the money over the course of three years.
Governor John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards are calling human trafficking modern day slavery. They’re sending a message to the pimps and traffickers, saying Louisiana will not tolerate it.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Juanita Carruth said, “It was my duty to protect them with my life.” Her 13-year-old daughter is a survivor of human trafficking. She says her daughter was drugged and sold for sex. Shortly after she was taken, police found her after her trafficker streamed the acts on social media.
“I realized that there were forces beyond my control because even with a loving two-parent home, my daughter became a victim,” Carruth said.
Her daughter isn’t alone. Last year, the Louisiana Department of Family and Children Services reported 681 confirmed human trafficking victims in the state. The majority of those were sex trafficking victims, and nearly half were juveniles.
“Human trafficking is the fastest growing, second largest criminal industry in the United States,” Governor Edwards said. “In Louisiana, thousands of victims have been identified.”
The governor says human trafficking is a statewide problem primarily because of the I-10, I-12 corridor here in south Louisiana and I-20 in north Louisiana.
“There are folks bringing in victims of human sex trafficking to service those folks,” Edwards said. “We know we have to do more.”
Several Acadiana agencies are working with the state on this initiative.
“The first step is really prevention: educating the public on what’s really going on and making sure these kids understand at a young age,” said Christie Howard of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Acadiana.
Craig Mathews, CEO of Smile Community Action Agency said, “There are families that come into our agency that have been affected by it, and we feel like one person becoming vulnerable to this and becoming a victim is one too many.”
Governor Edwards says Louisiana cannot fail in its efforts to stop human trafficking. This will now be a main priority for the state moving forward.