District Attorney Heather Adams Announces Launch of Human Trafficking Task Force

On this National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, our office announces the launch of the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Task Force (HTTF).

Human trafficking has become the second largest criminal industry in the world after narcotics trafficking.  Human trafficking occurs in every country, not just developing countries, and exists in Pennsylvania and in Lancaster County.

The HTTF is a collaboration among local, county, state and federal government with private sector and non-profit organizations whose mission is to combat human trafficking in Lancaster County through the investigation and prosecution of cases based on a victim-centered approach and to foster community awareness of human trafficking through education and outreach.

“Fighting human trafficking from a law enforcement perspective requires a proactive approach,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said. “The collaboration announced today among law enforcement is key to any human trafficking investigation but equally as important are the partnerships and commitment from the victim service providers because the reality is that human trafficking is a victim-based crime.”

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams Announces Launch of Human Trafficking Task Force

The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office along with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, Prison, Detectives, Adult and Juvenile Probation, Children and Youth, Drug and Alcohol Commission, Victim and Witness Services, Children’s Alliance, YWCA Lancaster, SAFE Program, Northstar Initiative, ZOE International, Pennsylvania State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation and several Lancaster County police departments will be partnering in this endeavor.

“I believe that for many Lancaster County residents it may be hard to grasp the reality that human trafficking is taking place here,” East Lampeter Township Police Chief Stephen B. Zerbe said. “However, we have seen this crime and its effect firsthand. Human trafficking is occurring here, in the center of our beautiful County. This task force, while targeting and prosecuting the offender, will do even more good with the support and direction it will provide to the victims of this crime.”

“This task force is a vital component in working with our most vulnerable population: our children,” said Lancaster County Children and Youth Agency Director of Intake Services Robin Boyer.

Participating municipal police departments include East Hempfield Township, East Lampeter Township, Lancaster City Bureau of Police, Lititz Borough, Manor Township, Northwest Regional and West Lampeter Township. Members of the law enforcement team have already received training in human trafficking investigations. 

Human trafficking is often and commonly misconceived. It is defined as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act and can take on many forms.  Individuals do not need to be forced into commercial sex acts to be victims of human trafficking.  One of the many myths of human trafficking is that victims will attempt to leave their trafficker when in public or when they get the chance; the reality is that they may be afraid to get help because they are often threatened by violence, fear their trafficker and may not be in possession of their identification. 

This task force will provide victim assessments and craft an initial emergency plan when contact from a victim occurs. Meetings for the victim with necessary agencies will be arranged, and when needed, long-term and transitional plans will be crafted. 

“After more than 30 years in Lancaster County advocating for survivors, we know that collaborating is a necessity to create practical solutions to prevent human trafficking, support survivors, and hold preparators accountable,” YWCA Lancaster Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center Director Mandy Billman said. “We’re proud to join this multi-disciplinary taskforce and use our expertise in this community to provide direct services, foster healing, and build greater awareness for this vital issue.”

The HTTF was constructed using the Department of Justice/Office of Victims of Crime’s Human Trafficking Task Force suggestions, ZOE International’s Global Best Practices, research and interviews of 10 Pennsylvania Human Trafficking Task Forces, and U.S. State Department Trafficking In Persons (TIP) annual report.

A collaborative effort between law enforcement, prosecutors and social service agencies is necessary to effectively address this problem.  Moving forward, the HTTF will strive to successfully investigate and prosecute crimes of human trafficking at the local, state, and federal level, while ensuring that all trafficking victims are identified and receive access to a comprehensive array of supportive services.  This victim-centered approach creates the best-case scenario for trafficking victims and will also aid the Commonwealth to better prosecute the traffickers. 

Reporting of suspicious activity believed or suspected to be human trafficking can be submitted here.

Additional information can be found in the PDF attachment below.

MEDIA CONTACT: Sean McBryan, semcbryan@co.lancaster.pa.us; Twitter: @SeanMcBryanLanc.