TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — On Monday, Attorney General Ashley Moody joined thirty-five other state attorneys general in seeking support from Congressional leaders to ensure the National Human Trafficking Hotline is functioning as intended.
According to the letter, discoveries show that hotline operator Polaris only forwards tips from the hotline in limited circumstances. Moody says Congress must take action to restore the hotline's effectiveness and preserve the critical joint federal-state effort to end human trafficking.
“The mission of the National Human Trafficking Hotline is a valiant one: forward tips to authorities who may use the information to put an end to a trafficking victim’s suffering,” Attorney General Ashley Moody told The Florida Standard. “Unfortunately, Polaris is failing to follow this important standard yet continues to receive large amounts of federal funding.”
“I’m urging Congressional leaders to get to the bottom of this, so our law enforcement authorities can be better equipped with the knowledge needed to stop this atrocious crime,” Moody added.
POLARIS’ DELAY IN ASSISTING LAW ENFORCEMENT
The sole operator of the federally funded National Human Trafficking Hotline is Polaris, which has been operating the hotline since 2007. Many states rely on the national hotline to forward tips of suspected human trafficking to local law enforcement to arrest traffickers, safely recover victims and uncover evidence of trafficking rings and operations.
In recent months, multiple state attorneys general have found that Polaris only forwards tips to state law enforcement about adult victims in limited circumstances. The practice is contrary to what Polaris advertises and what states and organizations have come to expect from their partnership with the federally-funded organization.
In some cases, states discovered a delay of several months before the hotline shared tips. Many states, federal agencies and organizations actively engage the public to remember the hotline and encourage residents to provide tips in hopes of helping to recover victims. But the newly-discovered Polaris practices dramatically diminish the value of the hotline.
AN URGENT CALL
“We urge Congress to ensure that Polaris makes changes to its current and reported planned tip reporting policies to begin forwarding tips regarding suspected human trafficking of adults, in a prompt manner, to the corresponding state’s law enforcement officials for their evaluation and response to ensure victim safety… We cannot afford to lose the benefits of this federal-state partnership to end trafficking,” the joint letter states.
Along with Attorney General Moody, attorneys general from the following states and territories signed the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia and Wisconsin.
To read the letter, click here.
Floridians who suspect human trafficking are urged to call 855-FLA-SAFE instead of Polaris.