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Lt. Governor Karyn Polito

On Tuesday, April 5, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced new policies in targeting human trafficking throughout the Commonwealth, working in cooperation with Massachusetts State Police and Department of Children and Families (DCF). The new policies include the creation of Massachusetts State Police Human Trafficking Unit.

Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito were joined on the Grand Staircase of the Statehouse by Massachusetts State Police Colonel Richard McKeon, Department of Children and Families Commissioner Linda Spears, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, and Secretary of Public Safety Daniel Bennett, along with legislators and advocates, to unveil the new four person unit.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, over 1,300 human trafficking calls have been reported in the Commonwealth since 2007. This statistic however does not include the cases that have gone unreported, causing major challenges for law enforcement and state agencies. Lt. Governor spoke with Boston Herald Radio on DCF’s involvement in the new unit, saying “The Department of Children and Families has a protective intake policy and we are changing that policy to include the condition of sexual exploitation of a child as a condition that needs to be reported.”

Governor Charlie Baker stated during the unveiling of the new unit, “The buying and selling of human lives is an abhorrent practice that is still taking place in Massachusetts, and we owe it to those who find themselves unwilling participants in it to take steps to stop it, I’m pleased to have the State Police and DCF work collaboratively to implement and create new tools to increase reporting requirements and target trafficking for juveniles as we work to rid our Commonwealth of this abominable scourge.”

Detective Lieutenant Pi Downsbrough, a twenty-five veteran of the State Police, will be in charge of the unit with help from three other troopers. The new Human Trafficking Unit has been created specifically to target trafficking cases involving children. Massachusetts State Police will work with the Department of Children and Families allowing better interagency coordination and communication in efforts to stop human trafficking. The Human Trafficking Unit will be able to assist with local law enforcement on human trafficking cases.

Lt. Governor Polito, said during the unveiling, “Our administration is pleased to announce these critical reforms during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Month to target the drivers of trafficking and do more to keep our children and communities safe.” The Lt. Governor is chair of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

With the support of a five-year federal grant award in 2014, DCF is partnering with county based Children’s Advocacy Centers to establish Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDT). The grant provides training and technical assistance to each county, MDTs, and youth-serving organizations, and assists with updates to DCF policies to include human trafficking and the needs of victims and at-risk youth.

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