Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards participated in the first statewide symposium aimed at bringing together key leaders and stakeholders to end human trafficking in Louisiana.

“The fight to end human trafficking is a responsibility we all must share, from law enforcement and policy makers to educators and faith based leaders,” said Gov. Edwards. “Combating this problem is very important to Donna and me. We’re encouraged by the number of people participating in this symposium who understand the need to learn more about what we’re up against and more importantly, how we can help those who are victimized. It’s proven to be a problem that has no barriers and can happen in our own back yards when we least expect it.  We all need to be aware of the warning signs and the help that’s available.”

“Human trafficking seems like a foreign issue, but it is a local issue as Louisiana is among the top trafficked states in the country,” said First Lady Donna Edwards. “It is our responsibility as a community, citizens, and Louisianans to rescue these young ladies in need.”

Over the past three years, more than 1,000 human trafficking cases have been reported to the Louisiana State Police. Last year alone, the number of human trafficking cases in Louisiana rose by 25 percent and of the 477 confirmed or high-risk cases in 2016, nearly half involved minors being exploited for sexual purposes.

Nearly 600 people registered to attend the Statewide Human Trafficking Awareness symposium, which is the first of its kind to be held in the state. It was hosted by the Governor’s Office of Programs and Planning and the Children’s Cabinet. Both offices have taken the lead in identifying key partners and securing grant funding from the National Criminal Justice Center to host regional trafficking summits throughout the state in an effort to raise awareness and invite citizens and stakeholders to join the movement of fighting against human trafficking. 

“It is a privilege to serve under the leadership of a Governor who has made eliminating human trafficking a priority,” said Deputy Chief of Staff Johnny Anderson who heads the Office of Programs and Planning.” During this administration, Louisiana has taken meaningful steps toward this goal, including creating a statewide interagency trafficking prevention commission and this statewide symposium with regional meetings to follow. Our team is eager to take the information gathered today and continue this effort.”