The Seattle Police Department and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Seattle have been awarded a $750,000 federal grant to continue work combatting human trafficking of both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, according to a news release issued Monday by U.S. District Attorney Jenny Durkan.
The money — $500,000 to the police department and $250,000 to IRC’s Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network — will be used for criminal investigations and to provide services to victims, including housing, medical and mental health care and support for those involved in prosecutions against traffickers.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Justice was first awarded to SPD and IRC nine years ago, but up until July 2012, the funds could only be used to help foreign nationals involved in forced labor or the sex trade, said Kathleen Morris, program director of the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network. Now, the money can go to aid all victims of human trafficking in Western Washington, she said.
“It’s been going up exponentially, each and every year,” said Morris, adding that more people requested help in the first half of 2013 than in all of 2012. “Anyone exploited in this way deserves services.”
Morris’ organization has partnered with local community groups to provide services to human-trafficking victims, including API Chaya and YouthCare. Victims, both domestic and foreign, are forced into prostitution and domestic-servitude; the construction and restaurant industries are also hotbeds for labor exploitation and Morris has seen an increase in the trafficking of boys from Central America who are brought here and forced to sell drugs.
“It’s been such a long-hidden crime but now, a lot more people are paying attention and learning about this issue,” she said.