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Audit: Louisiana can improve work against human trafficking

Posted at 4:40 PM, Mar 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-07 17:40:24-05

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — While Louisiana has bolstered services to human trafficking victims, the state could do much more to improve educational outreach and assist those forced into sex acts or labor, a new state audit says.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office said Louisiana doesn’t coordinate the aid offered to most trafficking victims or do enough to track its effectiveness. The state provides too few mental health beds for victims and doesn’t have a consistent state financing source for anti-tracking activities, relying heavily on federal grants, the office’s report said.

The Legislature created a dedicated fund to combat trafficking in June 2013, which is supposed to collect fines assessed on people convicted of child trafficking crimes. But the audit said no dollars have been deposited into it.

Auditors recommended a statewide public awareness campaign about how to recognize and report human trafficking — and more targeted training to help identify victims of labor trafficking, not just forced prostitution.

Purpera’s office said it decided to review Louisiana’s work to fight trafficking, looking at best practices, after state statistics showed the number of victims receiving services steadily increasing from 206 people in 2014 to 744 people four years later. More than half of those victims in 2018 were children.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has increased Louisiana’s attention on human trafficking in recent years, creating a statewide Human Trafficking Prevention Commission in the governor’s office and holding anti-trafficking summits statewide to identify gaps in services.

Lawmakers passed a measure last year that requires coordination across several state agencies to develop a service delivery plan for trafficking victims, with a report on the work due later this year.

But the legislative auditor suggested that lawmakers could increase their efforts, designating an agency as the lead on tracking adult victims of human trafficking and child victims who aren’t already in state custody.

Louisiana also should develop resource guides and service provider registries, to help victims of forced labor or forced sex acts to locate assistance, the report says.

A state law that requires child assault awareness training in schools doesn’t identify any agency or entity that is responsible for making sure the schools comply, according to the audit.