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Calcasieu, federal officials form task force to prevent human trafficking

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 12:16 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Law enforcement officials from Calcasieu Parish and nonprofit organizations in the community are creating an initiative to prevent human trafficking and provide resources to trafficking victims and their families.

The Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Calcasieu District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the Western District of Louisiana U.S. Attorney’s Office took part in the joint briefing Thursday afternoon.

In 2020, the Department of Children and Family Services documented nearly 900 reported cases of human trafficking statewide. More than 100 of those victims were ages 12 and under, and over 500 were 17 or younger.

“They are beaten down and they are worn down and a lot of times I guess because of their status in life and where people view them, they feel like nobody will listen to them,” Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said.

That stigma has to change according to law enforcement because many of these cases go unreported. The true numbers are staggering and officials call Lake Charles a hotbed.

“With the casinos and the tourism we have, we have rail here, we have the port, we have the I-10 running right through Calcasieu Parish, that’s what makes this area a hotbed,” Calcasieu Parish District Attorney Stephen Dwight said.

That’s why the new crime fighting team is on display. Their mission - stop human trafficking in Southwest Louisiana by educating on the tell-tale signs. They’ll start in casinos, then move to hotels and convenience stores to alert clerks on the red flags.

“Law enforcement is getting smarter, but so are criminals so we have to stay vigilant and we have to stay aggressive and creative at the same time in order to take down these organizations,” U.S. Attorney Brandon Brown said.

“This does happen in our community and has happened in our community and it’s gonna happen in other communities and if we work together - all of us - we can at least punch them in the nose and tell them we’re not going to put up with this in Calcasieu Parish,” Sheriff Mancuso said.

The SWLA Human Trafficking Task Force is a joint project including the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office, Lake Charles Police Department, Western District of LA U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, Calcasieu Parish Office of Juvenile Justice Services, Calcasieu Parish Combined Anti-Drug Task Force, Calcasieu Parish School Board, Child Advocacy Center, Department of Child and Family Services, Diocese of Lake Charles, Family and Youth Counseling Agency, Oasis, Rape Crisis, SANE, United Way of SWLA, and Water’s Edge Church.

If you belong to a local service agency or non-profit that would like to be involved please send an email to info@cpso.com.

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