HONOLULU (KHON2) - There is a major boost in the fight against human trafficking in the islands.
There is a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The funding will be used to create the Honolulu County Human Trafficking Task Force.
It's goal will be to identify victims of both sex and labor trafficking and provide services for victims like emergency housing, counseling and basic necessities.
The Honolulu Prosecutor's office will work along side the Susannah Wesley Community Center to run the task force.
"This task force will provide a multi-agency approach to the human trafficking problem," Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said.
The task force will identify victims of both sex and labor trafficking as defined by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
It will coordinate the investigation and prosecution of traffickers and provide services for victims.
The Prosecuting Attorney's office will receive $700,000.
The money will be used to fund a deputy prosecutor, an investigator, and an administrative assistant.
Their sole purpose will be to establish and operate the multidisciplinary task force.
The Susannah Wesley Community Center will receive $500,000.
It will provide comprehensive services for trafficking victims including intensive case management, emergency housing/shelter, basic necessities, medical and counseling assistance, transportation, interpretation, and more.
The grant will also fund a researcher to evaluate the task force's performance.
"Sex trafficking is a serious crime that often goes unnoticed by the general public," Kaneshiro said.
Federal law enforcement agencies, including Homeland Security Investigations, will participate in the task force. Cases will be referred to the United States Attorney's office when appropriate.
According to Kaneshiro, "In 2017 our office investigated 19 cases of suspected sex trafficking and initiated prosecution of 15 sex trafficking cases."