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Catholic Charities partners with PBSO to serve victims of human trafficking

Catholic Charities is partnering with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (PBSO) in a joint application to the Department of Justice and the Office of Victims of Crime to fund the continuation of the Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force, a 7 year partnership.

Florida is ranked third in the nation and Palm Beach County is ranked third in the state for suspected cases of Human Trafficking.  In early 2016, members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Special Investigations Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the PBC State Attorney’s Office (SAO), and the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) convened to develop a strategy to address human trafficking in Palm Beach County.  The team determined the best approach would include a victim centered, trauma informed, multi-disciplinary Task Force.

The PBSO, as the lead law enforcement agency, and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach, as the lead victim services’ agency, applied to the Department of Justice and the Office for Victims of Crime to acquire a grant which  provided funding and a formidable framework to establish an “Enhanced Collaborative Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force” (Task Force) officially commencing in January 2017; the grant was awarded again in October of 2019 with Palm Beach County Victim Services taking over the role of lead victim services’ agency. Catholic Charities remains involved as a provider of long-term case management.

Through this grant, Catholic Charities provides long-term case management to help victims recover from their experience and rebuild their lives.  This case management involves emotional support, safety planning, legal advocacy, hotel and housing assistance, provision of household goods and personal items, transportation assistance,  medical care, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, and more.

The Mission of the Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force is to combat human trafficking through a collaborative, victim centered, trauma informed framework by identifying, rescuing, and restoring victims; investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes; and building awareness about trafficking in and around our community.

The Task Force is comprised of several core partners, unified through a formalized memorandum of understanding, to include:  PBSO, Catholic Charities, the USAO, the FBI, the SAO, Homeland Security Investigations, PBC Victim Services, Department of Children and Families, and Barry University. Since its inception, numerous additional law enforcement and victim service provider partners have also joined the Task Force.

The primary goals of the Task Force include: the identification of all types of human trafficking victims (foreign/domestic, male/female, adult/minor, labor/sex trafficking); data driven decision making; proactive, long-term investigations; successful prosecutions; and the provision of a comprehensive array of victim services.  Through these established goals and the unparalleled dedication of Task Force members, to date thousands of community stakeholders have been trained to recognize indicators of human trafficking; cases have been opened, arrests have been made, and victims have been identified and offered much needed services.

In 2017, the Task Force was awarded Task Force of the Year by the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) in recognition of the accomplishments.

In May 2023  - in collaboration with PBSO, Catholic Charities will apply to renew this grant with the Office of Victims of Crime for another three years. We ask for your prayers that we are awarded this grant funding to continue the work of the Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force and Catholic Charities Bakhita Empowerment Program serving human trafficking victims.  This directly contributes to our mission of serving people in need and creating hope in all stages of life.