Multiple government bodies commended SBC’s commitment to eradicate sex trafficking from the Shreveport-Bossier area at an awards ceremony and proclamation event at juvenile court on Friday.
The event hosted the first-ever granting of the “Freedom Fighter Awards” to Caddo Parish District attorney Judge James Stewart and Bossier Marshal Chief Deputy Shelley Anderson.
Shobana Powell, director of the community’s anti-trafficking FREE Coalition, said both Stewart and Anderson dedicated intense effort toward rescuing victims or preventing or reducing sex trafficking in the area.
“This caught me by surprise,” Stewart said when presented with his award. “We have to stay focused on the task, and the task is helping children.”
Stewart has overseen the creation of a special diversion program to help victims of sex trafficking or who are repeat offenders of prostitution arrests. Anderson is a member of Marshal’s Office Cyber Crime Unit and also a member of the Northwest Louisiana Internet Crimes Against Children task force.
“This has been a long road and a very hard fight,” Anderson said in receiving her award.
Also at the event Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler and Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker proclaimed January National Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention month. Caddo Parish Commissioner Mike Middleton also read a resolution passed by the commission in support.
Data presented at the event reported that 13 child victims of sex trafficking were recovered from the Shreveport area in 2015 alone, and that adult and child sex trafficking victims ranged in age from 6 to 54 years old.
The elected officials and Powell also recognized efforts by Caddo Parish Juvenile Services, including the Community Response Team and the Specialized Intensive Unit, which works with trafficked youth or youth who are at high risk of being trafficked. Tyler said 85 cases of potential sex trafficking of children had been processed by the Community Response Team— 35 of which had been confirmed.
“I’m proud of our juvenile services staff. They are leading not just this state, but this nation,” said Judge Paul Young of Caddo Parish Juvenile Court.
Laurie McGehee, Director of Probation Services at Juvenile Court for Caddo Parish, said her staff is prepared to continuing fighting “the good fight.” Clay Walker, director of Caddo Parish’s juvenile services, thanked all community partners for their help and support.
“I haven’t run into a community yet that has this much collaboration,” Walker said. “The reason Shreveport is doing good work is because of everyone in this room.”
RESOURCES: (If you suspect a child might be sex trafficked)
(318) 861- 1890 FBI Tip Line
(504) 310-7000 Louisiana State Police
(318) 606-2518 Purchased
1-888-373-7888 National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline or text ‘info’ or ‘help’ to BeFree (233733)
To Get Involved: (Donate: Time, money, needed items)
Purchased (Shreveport): Needs volunteers to mentor teens, provide education to adult victims or conduct outreach in hotels/motels, jails and strip clubs. Also accepts donations. Contact: Email Cassie Hammett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (318) 606-2518
Free Indeed Home (Greater New Orleans): The state’s only safe house for child victims of trafficking. Accepts donations. Contact Beth Salcedo at Beth@lacaht.org or call (985) 373-4446.
Covenant House: Provides emergency housing and necessities for homeless teens, aged 16 to 22. Needs donations, prayers and voices for the voiceless. Accepts donations. Contact Jim Kelly at email@example.com or call (504) 584 1111.
Gingerbread House: Forensic interviewing center for children who have been sexually abused. Accepts volunteers and donations of journals, books (age 2-14), arts and crafts kits, coloring books and snacks. Contact Aelania Auzenne at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complete list of donation needs.
Baptist Friendship House: emergency housing for trafficking victims. Needs sports bras, tennis shoes, jeans, t-shirts, postage stamps. Also accepts donations at www.baptistfriendshiphouse.org. Contact Kay Bennett at email@example.com or call (504) 949-4469.
Trafficking Hope: Provides safe housing to trafficking victims and also conducts training and community outreach. Contact: George Mills at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (225) 290-7598.
by Lex Talamo