32 human trafficking victims, Including Minors Rescued during 'Operation HOPE'

32 human trafficking victims, Including Minors Rescued during 'Operation HOPE'

The Arkansas State Police and members of the Arkansas Human Trafficking Council recently conducted an operation that resulted in the rescue of seven women who are human trafficking survivors and another 25 local victims, including children. In a statement released Monday, the Arkansas Department of Public Safety carried out Operation HOPE (Help and Opportunity to Prevent Exploitation) with the Arkansas Human Trafficking Council to recover the victims and provide them with several resources, including food, lodging, on-site medical services, counseling, therapy, and drug rehabilitation. 

"These concerted efforts will significantly contribute to making Arkansas a place where human trafficking is not tolerated," ASP Director Colonel Mike Hagar said in a statement. "The dedicated law enforcement community in Arkansas is fully committed to approaching the grim reality of human trafficking with empathy, aiming to rescue victims from the shadows and provide them with the support and care they need to recover." 

During the time of the operation, intelligence analysts and law enforcement officers identified the victims and were able to rescue three children and one adult from locations described as exploitative, vulnerable, and unstable. The adults were later given victim services while the children were taken into protective custody.

"Not only do we hunt the wicked, but we also seek out the wounded," ASP Criminal Investigation Division Commander Major Stacie Rhoads said in a statement.   

According to The Christian Post, also providing assistance with Operation HOPE included The Arkansas Attorney General's Office, Hot Springs Police Department, Garland County Sheriff's Office, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Harrison Police Department, and the Arkansas Fusion Center. The initiative received additional help from the Regional Intervention of Sexual Exploitation, The Genesis Project, Into the Light, ACASA, Saline County Safe Haven, River Valley Medical Wellness, and the NWA Forensic Nurse Team. 

In February, five female human trafficking survivors and 30 victims were rescued in a similar operation, Operation HART, that took place in Jonesboro in northeast Arkansas. 

"The Arkansas law enforcement community and our victim service partners are on a mission to end human trafficking in Arkansas," Hagar said in a statement at the time. "We are working to give law enforcement the specialized training they need to embrace victims with compassion while they free them from perpetrators of this heinous crime." 

Alabama is not the only state that has taken the initiative against human trafficking within its borders. Last month, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed an anti-child trafficking law that increases the penalty for first-degree human trafficking to a mandatory life imprisonment sentence if the victim is a minor, The Christian Post reported. The legislation, described by advocates as the "toughest in the nation," is expected to go into effect on Oct. 1. 

"Human trafficking of minors is one of the most heinous and heart-wrenching crimes in America, and because the most defenseless among us are the victims, those found guilty should face the harshest penalties," Ivey said in a statement.

"As human trafficking spreads across the nation, law enforcement everywhere has struggled to keep pace with those who want to harm and exploit innocent victims," she continued. "Sadly, we've witnessed such cases right here in Alabama where human traffickers continue to cavalierly defy our laws, but not anymore."

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Milton QuintanillaMilton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for CrosswalkHeadlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.