Officers with the Topeka Police Department and the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office have undergone training to identify and respond to human trafficking.
In the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, more than 1,000 Kansas police officers underwent trafficking training through a program coordinated by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office and the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.
According to Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, half of the state’s sworn law enforcement officers have been trained on trafficking since 2013.
“Human trafficking is a crime of exploitation that thrives in the shadows or, sometimes, hides in plain sight,” Schmidt said in a news release. “Increasing the number of law enforcement officers trained to identify trafficking and to know how to respond is a key to combating this terrible offense against human dignity.”
The sheriff’s office hasn’t investigated a human trafficking case, deputy Shayna Anderson said, but the agency understands it’s “a big concern.” Eventually they plan to have all officers receive the training.
The Topeka Police Department has investigated trafficking cases including a man who attempted to lure a 14-year-old girl into sex trafficking. In April, Anthony Long was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
“(Trafficking) is a concern for the TPD just as any crime that victimizes and exploits,” Lt. Colleen Stuart said. “The crimes included in human trafficking are taken seriously and investigated to the fullest extent.”
Michelle McCormick, director of the YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment, said law enforcement plays an important role in fighting trafficking, especially when it comes to recognizing the demand side.
“I’m excited about the training that law enforcement is doing,” McCormick said, adding that the focus needs to be who buys sex and labor to really get at the issue.
Victims seek the YWCA’s services through law enforcement, hospital and self-referrals.
In 2014, the organization began formally tracking the number of trafficking survivors seeking help. Every year, they have recorded increasing numbers.
“People would just be shocked. (Trafficking) is much more frequent than they expect,” McCormick said.
Organizations including the YWCA are part of a countywide trafficking coalition.
McCormick said about 100 trafficking victims are identified every month by the coalition. The community needs to ask questions about why people are buying sex and what dynamics are at play, she said.
In June, Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that created new crimes of promoting travel for child exploitation and internet trading in child pornography.
The measure also requires commercial driver’s license applicants to undergo training on trafficking.