The Human Trafficking Team (HTT) enlists the “4Ps model” to combat human trafficking: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership. HTT is dedicated to prevent future victimization of the vulnerable; assist law enforcement to protect the victims; prosecute human traffickers; and partnering with members of the community, increasing awareness of human trafficking.
HTT trains community groups, law enforcement, judicial services, and social services groups to recognize the signs of human trafficking. HTT’s two members sit on the 18th Judicial Human Trafficking Task Force and helped start one of the first High Risk Victim Identification Committees in the state. The High Risk Victim Committee – a collaborative effort between the District Attorney Office, Senate Bill 94 Staff, the Probation Department, the Juvenile Assessment Center, Guardians Ad Litems, and the Human Services Department – work together to identify possible victims of human trafficking and attempt to prevent future victimization, or provide appropriate services for victims who have disclosed.
Due to the complex nature of the investigations, and multi-faceted needs of the victims, a Special Victim’s prosecutor is assigned to handle this case load. The prosecutor is involved with the cases from the initial investigation/ recovery of the child, up through possible plea or trial. Investigator Urban provides assistance and support in investigations to the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force, conduct supplemental investigation and follow-up work, and assists in preparing victims to testify at trial.
Putting the pieces of a HT case together makes it extremely time consuming to investigate and prosecute.
Most human traffickers will have anywhere between one to three children between the ages of 13-17 in their control. The typical case requires up to five search warrants and has between 500 – 1000 pages of police reports to review (an average case has 50-200). The cases are time-consuming as these cases require corralling of numerous witnesses, many of whom are involved in the human services system; and require forensically examining computers and cellular phones, obtaining hotel records, employment records, surveillance videos, and information from social media and commercial escort websites.
The victims present unique challenges as they are often young people – both male and female – who have already been exposed to hardships previous abuse. They often have immediate housing, drug-treatment and mental health needs, and possibly have their own delinquency cases which need to be addressed. Prosecution of a case can take anywhere between 6 – 18 months, which can be a challenging duration of time for the victims to stay in contact with law enforcement.
In 2012, Arapahoe County filed six human trafficking cases. In 2013, Arapahoe County filed 21 cases; in 2014 Arapahoe County filed 33 cases. District Attorney George Brauchler, recognizing the importance of these cases to the community, decided to pursue funding to hire a full-time dedicated team to this growing issue in the community.
In July 2015, the Arapahoe County Commissioners approved the funding for the HTT and in January 1, 2016, the team began its work.
Once the HTT began, more criminal cases, investigations, and prosecutions began to emerge as local law enforcement had the assistance they needed from the Office.
District Attorney George Brauchler has a reputation for aggressively prosecuting these cases. Historically, HT cases would go to a grand jury, often taking months to file. With the HTT, the cases are efficiently prosecuted, therefore, removing dangerous traffickers from the community faster.
The HTT is part of a multi-county effort to develop a uniform system that will address human trafficking victimization. Currently, information is divided by each office and makes it difficult to cross-reference information when a defendant or victim traverses between jurisdictions.
- People v. Alexander Brown: The defendant was charged with Pimping of a Child, Patronizing a Child Prostitute, and other trafficking related charges for one child, and charged with Sexual Assault- Pattern of Abuse regarding his sexual relationship with a 13-year-old child who recruited the other child victim. He was sentenced to thirty-two (32) years to Life in prison and twenty (20) years to Life on Parole.
- People v. Darian Scott: The defendant, who had previously been convicted of similar behavior, was charged for pimping and trafficking numerous young girls. He pleded guilty and was sentenced to twenty-eight (28) years in prison and five (5) years Parole. Co-defendant Aaron Hill was sentenced to twenty-two (22) years in prison.
- People v. Carlos Stegall: The defendant was sentenced to twenty-four (24) years in prison and five (5) years Parole for forcing four teenage girls into prostitution.
- People v. Dandre Stephens: The defendant was sentenced to twenty-four (24) years in prison, after sexually assaulting, physically abusing, and trafficking two teenage girls (ages 13, 15).
- People v. William Johnson: The defendant was sentenced to sixteen (16) years in prison for the trafficking of five different juvenile victims over the course of four years.