SBI Awarded Grant for Human Trafficking

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The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) has been awarded a $9.6 million grant over the next five years from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the standard of life and quality of life for people around the world.

This grant comes at a crucial time as the nation observes National Human Trafficking Prevention Month through January. According to federal statistics, human trafficking is the largest and fastest growing crime worldwide, generating $150 billion in illegal profits each year. North Carolina consistently ranks in the top 10 worst states in our country for reported human trafficking cases through the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

The goal of the funding is to improve the effectiveness of labor trafficking investigations and prosecutions, strengthen victim support services and increase collaboration between agencies across North Carolina.

“The plan is to hire, and fund dedicated resources and specialists who can work collaboratively to follow leads, analyze data, identify trafficking networks, and support victims throughout the entire process. This collaborative approach not only equips our Human Trafficking Unit with the ability to address the complexities of both sex and labor trafficking more effectively, but also ensures that survivors receive the support they need during the process of seeking justice and healing from the trauma of trafficking,” said Special Agent in Charge Kellie Hodges, SBI Human Trafficking Unit.

The SBI has been named the grant recipient alongside two sub-awardees, which include the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys and Safe Alliance, a Charlotte-based non-profit organization that helps those impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault. The money will fund six full-time positions with the SBI’s Human Trafficking Unit; three will be intelligence analysts, and three will be financial crimes investigators. The funding will also support a full-time resource prosecutor with the North Carolina Conference of DAs as well as two victim service coordinators.

Safe Alliance is the administrative lead for the opening of The Umbrella Center (TUC) in Charlotte, NC which will co-locate victim service experts to improve safety, access to services, and confidentiality for victims and families. With this funding, Safe Alliance will be able to bolster their capacity to support existing human trafficking organizations as well as survivors of human trafficking, adding several support positions including a community liaison, licensed clinicians, hotline advocates, and a sexual trauma resource center advocate.

“We welcome everyone, offering services to all ages and all genders. Coupled with our 24/7 Greater Charlotte Hope Line, Safe Alliance is uniquely qualified to support victims of both labor and sex trafficking. We look forward to partnering with community stakeholders to provide greater access to services for human trafficking survivors so they can find hope and healing,” said Safe Alliance President & CEO Laura Lawrence.

“This funding represents a powerful commitment to the pursuit of justice and the safeguarding of victims of human trafficking, and this initiative underscores our unwavering resolve to tackle the complexities of human trafficking head-on. In collaboration with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and Safe Alliance, these resources will be the backbone of a united front against this heinous crime, ensuring the relentless pursuit of justice and comprehensive support for the survivors who deserve it most. Together, we stand poised to make a lasting impact, bringing traffickers to justice and providing a beacon of hope for those who have endured unimaginable hardships,” said Executive Director Kimberly Spahos, NC Conference of District Attorneys.

If you or someone you know is in need of support for human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, or parenting, please contact the 24/7 Greater Charlotte Hope Line at 980.771.HOPE (4673).