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Keyword: human trafficking

Commission for Women Sub-Group to Coordinate Education and Criminal Justice Approaches 

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced today that the Baltimore County Commission for Women will establish a cross-functional work group to address the complex issue of human trafficking in coordination with the County’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The work group will take a victim-centered approach as they work to reduce trafficking and protect victims by providing them with the resources they need in partnership with a variety of organizations, including non-profits and regional counterparts across the state.

"Human trafficking is a horrific practice that has absolutely no place in Baltimore County or anywhere,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “The vulnerable women, children and men who are victimized need our help and protection and we plan to work together to quickly identify actions we can take to address this challenging problem.”

The work group will select a member to be a permanent member of the County’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) and the Chair of the CJCC will approve the membership of the work group, which will be comprised of a team of professionals and individuals from the Commission for Women and representatives from law enforcement, education, social services and the health and legal fields. Individual members must be County residents with a proven history and involvement in public advocacy. 

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s Leadership Role

The CJCC membership includes the Baltimore County Chief of Police, Sheriff, State’s Attorney, Chief Administrative Judges of the Circuit and District Courts, Public Defender, Department of Corrections Director, Director of Health and Human Services, School Superintendent and the Criminal Justice Coordinator; as well as the Regional Director of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services and the Community Supervision Director of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and others.  

The CJCC provides coordinated leadership to establish cohesive criminal justice strategies, policies and programs; identifies deficiencies, and formulates policy, plans and programs for improvement. They also collaborate to maximize resources and raise funds to support criminal justice programs.  

A Focus on Victims

The Human Trafficking Work Group will be committed to a victim-centered approach and is charged with recommending a more comprehensive, specialized and coordinated response to victims’ long-term needs, including a review of coordination related to State policies and protocols.

Commission for Women President, Bella Santos Owens, said, “Six years ago, when only a few were talking in our community about human trafficking, we were already raising awareness on this issue. The Commission for Women knew that behind the silence are the struggles of real human beings. We persisted. We are very proud that an official work group has been formed by the County – upon the Commission’s proposal – dedicated to finding the gaps that exist between human trafficking victim services and policies. This confirms our view that human trafficking is a crime that is in our backyard and needs to be addressed.”

About Human Trafficking

Baltimore County ranks third in Maryland in occurrences of human trafficking, behind Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, according to the Maryland Department of Human Services. The National Human Trafficking Hotline received 30,918 reports in 2016. The International Labor Organization estimates that human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.

More information about human trafficking is available through the National Human Trafficking Hotline, at 1-888-373-7888, where you can learn about the types and signs of human trafficking.

If someone suspects human trafficking activity in Baltimore County, they are advised to call 9-1-1 to report their concerns. 


Executive also to testify in support of statewide changes to sexual assault statutes

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz released the results of an independent review of the County’s police department policies and procedures in responding to sexual assault allegations.

On October 19, 2016, the County Executive announced that Lisae Jordan, Executive Director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) and former Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Howe had agreed to review all unfounded rape cases from 2013, 2014, and 2015. Over the past four months, they reviewed 124 cases. As the report indicates,” the County did not oversee any aspect of the review, nor were the reviewers compensated by the County.”

“While I am gratified that the report stated that, ‘even in cases where one reviewer would not have classified a case as unfounded, they agreed that prosecution was not viable,’ there is always room for continual improvement in every organization,” said Kamenetz.

During his press conference on October 19, County Executive Kamenetz directed an immediate change to the County’s sexual assault investigatory policy. He announced, effective immediately, that every individual reporting a 2nd degree sexual assault charge, as well as the suspect, will be personally interviewed by a detective in the sex crimes unit. That action is one of the six recommendations in today’s report. “I am pleased that we were able to make this change even before the review began, and I embrace each of the six recommendations below,” concluded the County Executive.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are made on the basis of the review: 

1. The new policy requiring sex crimes detectives to interview both victims and suspects in sexual assault cases should be continued.  This policy ensures that sexual assault cases are consistently handled by detectives with specialized training.  This policy should apply to all cases involving investigations into violations of Criminal Law, Subtitle 3, Sexual Crimes, sexual abuse crimes in subtitle 6, and in cases involving investigations of sex trafficking. [1]  As part of this policy, cases involving a complaint of sexual assault should not be labeled "unfounded" unless a sex crimes detective has reviewed the case after investigation.

Administration Response: On October 19, 2016, County Executive Kamenetz directed the Baltimore County Police Department Special Victims Team (SVT) to immediately begin interviewing all victims and suspects involved in all Subtitle 3, Sexual Crimes, sexual abuse crimes in subtitle 6, and in cases involving investigations of sex trafficking with the exception of misdemeanors based upon age.

Response of the State’s Attorney’s Office: Agree that follow up interviews with specially trained sex offense detectives only enhance potential prosecution and provide the victims of sexual assault the services and attention they deserve.

2. Maryland’s sexual assault statutes should be clarified and modernized to make it clear that rape victims are not required to physically resist sexual assault.  Deficiencies in Maryland’s statutes that require “force or threat of force” are a major problem that contribute to the high unfounded rate in Baltimore County.

Administration Response:  The Administration supports changing Maryland’s sexual assault statute to eliminate the requirement for “physical force or threat of force.” County Executive Kamenetz will be testifying in support of Vice Chair Dumais’ House Bill 429.

Response of the State’s Attorney’s Office: Agree the County Executive and State’s Attorney will be supporting Senate Bill 217 that clarifies the law on physical resistance.  In addition, both will be supporting Senate Bill 349 that mandates the retention of DNA rape kits.

3. The Baltimore County Police Department should implement a system of tracking cases received from residential facilities, such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes, residential treatment centers, etc., to track trends and identify possible serial cases.  In addition, staff at these facilities should be trained on how to identify and respond to sexual assault cases within their facilities. 

Administration Response:  The Special Victims Team will begin tracking cases involving residential facilities. We agree that the staff at such facilities should receive training related to sexual assault, and that it should be the responsibility of the licensing entity to ensure that the standard is met.

4. The Baltimore County Police Department should receive intensive training in the following areas:

  • Responding to individuals with mental illness and cognitive disabilities;
  • Trauma-informed interviewing;
  • Cases involving intoxication.

Administration Response: The Administration agrees that all members of the Department should receive the recommended training, including the patrol officers who are the first responders to incidents of sexual assault. Baltimore County will also continue to work with MCASA to evaluate officer training in this area. This training will go hand in hand with the County’s recent work in collaboration with the Council of State Governments to improve its responses to individuals suffering behavioral health issues.

5. Communication between sex crimes detectives and the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office should be increased and documented.  Communication with prosecutors is particularly important in cases involving interpretations of the law on force and in cases involving “mentally incapacitated individuals” under Criminal Law §3-301(c).

Administration Response:  The Baltimore County Police Department has already formalized and developed a clear documentation system for enhanced communication between its Special Victims Team (SVT) and the State’s Attorney’s Office.

Response of the State’s Attorney’s Office: Agree the State’s Attorney’s Office will make all final legal decisions in all sexual assault cases and will document and retain those decisions. This process has already been implemented.

6. The County’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) should be strengthened and law enforcement should be required to attend.  Sexual Assault Response Teams provide a forum to discuss policies and procedures to ensure that sexual assault survivors receive trauma-informed responses.

Administration Response: The Baltimore County Police Department has been a voluntary participant in every SART meeting for more than 12 years. This Administration will continue to ensure that the Police Department remains an active participant in the SART for the foreseeable future. The Baltimore County Police Department and County administration are also committed to working with local sexual assault programs and other SART partners.

Response of the State’s Attorney’s Office: The Baltimore County Police Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office have been active members of SART and are committed to remaining active going forward. The State’s Attorney’s Office is also committed to working with local sexual assault programs and other SART partners.

[1] We note that cases involving sexual abuse of children are currently appropriately assigned to detectives with specialized training in these cases. 

 

 

 
 
Revised September 11, 2017