The Arizona Attorney General continues to coordinate strategies to stop human trafficking through training and prosecutions, with the overall goal of improving public safety. Since General Brnovich took office in January 2015, the AGO has prosecuted or is currently prosecuting 267 cases involving 327 defendants that are connected to sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of minors, or illegal enterprises/money laundering in the trafficking arena, such as massage parlors. As of July 15, 2020, the AGO has approximately 89 open cases involving 100 defendants charged with crimes connected to human or sex trafficking, approximately 44 of which are online sting defendants accused of luring minors for sex or trying to buy sex from undercover detectives (no victim, sex buyer demand-reduction cases, undercover operations). The remaining defendants are either sex traffickers, their associates, or massage parlor illegal enterprise operators and associates. We have prosecuted numerous individuals using an illegal enterprise/racketeering focus on the illegal sex trade, attempting to convict sex traffickers and sex buyers using the illegal acquisition and/or transfer of money that they utilize in the trafficking of adults and children for sex. This is a victim-aware method of prosecution that attempts to use a financial approach to prosecution that hopefully reduces the need for victims to be the primary witness in these prosecutions.
Examples of cases related to sex trafficking:
- Registered Sex Offender and Co-Conspirators Indicted in Alleged Prostitution Ring
- Robert Hood Sentenced to 108 Years in Prison for Child Sex Trafficking
- Glendale Couple Indicted for Child Sex Trafficking
- Operator of AZ Sex Trafficking Ring Sentenced to Prison
- San Tan Valley Man Sentenced to Prison for Child Sex Trafficking
- Phoenix Man Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
Public Awareness and Educational Programs
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) offers a human trafficking awareness program that targets youth, parents and the general public. The program focuses on prevention and is available statewide, free of charge. Trainings include information on the connection between social media and trafficking, warning signs, as well as healthy and unhealthy relationship indicators. Since January 2015, trainers have presented this program approximately 172 times to over 7,524 attendees while distributing over 8,000 education booklets. These trainings have taken place in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties (Cochise, Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Mohave, Navajo, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yuma). Eleven of these trainings were for staff and volunteers with foster care licensing agencies throughout Arizona and over 100 attendees were school resources officers. In February 2019, the AGO presented this program to a national audience at the Gunderson Violence Intervention and Prevention Summit in Orlando, Florida.
The AGO also provides support for the SAFE Action Project, an Arizona-based, collaborative effort to train tourism industry professionals at all levels to identify, report and prevent human trafficking. This is done in conjunction with the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and TRUST AZ.
Other AGO involvement to combat human trafficking includes:
- Truckers Against Trafficking
- Governor’s Task Force On Human Trafficking
- City of Phoenix Human Trafficking Task Force
In January of 2020, the AGO provided nearly $300,000 in new community grants to organizations that provide support services and shelter to survivors of human trafficking. Nearly 150 individuals, including children and babies, are expected to benefit from services funded by the grants.
Additionally, our Child and Family Protection Division (CFP) participates in the Strength Through Resilience, Endurance “N” Growth Through Hope (STRENGTH) program that began in September 2018. Two judges, one in Durango and one at the Southeast Juvenile Court, handle these cases. The purpose of the STRENGTH Court is to provide additional resources and services for the child victim, who has been identified and confirmed as a victim of sex trafficking. History has shown that there is a high rate of re-victimization and running away from placement by the minor victim and a return to the streets. The goal of the STRENGTH court is to work as a team to ensure all resources available are offered to the child and Assistant Attorneys General from the CFP Protective Services Section, are part of this team as counsel for the Department of Child Safety (DCS).
Cases sent to STRENGTH court are identified either through DCS, Mesa or Phoenix Police Departments, Mercy Maricopa (the Regional Behavioral Health Authority for DCS children) or Juvenile Probation. At the current time, there are a total of 256 minor victims at STRENGTH court. Approximately 112 of them are DCS children. In 2020, 38 confirmed DCS minor victims have aged out. The multidisciplinary teams that participate in the hearings include a Mercy Care representative, a sex-trafficked survivor/advocate, the case manager, and the attorneys assigned to each individual case. The AGO Protective Services Section has three Assistant Attorneys General specifically assigned to the STRENGTH caseload. History shows there is a high rate of re-victimization for minors in these crimes. Since STRENGTH’s inception in 2018, there has been a significant decline in the number of minor victims who have fled placement and returned to the streets (less than 5%).
Additionally, victims have assisted with the identification and prosecution of their pimps.
If you are the victim of human trafficking or if you suspect someone may be the victim of human traffickers, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to: BeFree (233733). The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the United States, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 200 languages.