POSTED: Thursday, February 3, 2011 - 4:35pm
UPDATED: Friday, February 4, 2011 - 10:32am
PHARR - The Office of the Governor is awarding the Pharr Police Department Human Trafficking Liaison Program a $60 thousand grant. With an additional $15 thousand being given by the Children's Advocacy Center.
"It's going to benefit all law enforcement in the region, but more importantly it's going to benefit victims of human trafficking," said Ruben Villescas, Pharr Police Department Chief.
In the last six months, officers said there has been an increase in human trafficking. This program is mainly set up to get services and help for human trafficking victims.
"I think with this program we'll be able to identify and reach victims, that would otherwise never come forward because they might not have ever believed that there was a program that was able to offer service orientation to them, and the different options they do have," said Villescas.
But Pharr Police are not doing this alone. They have partnered with the Children's Advocacy Center, along with their existing relationship with several other law enforcement agencies.
"This particular grant allows us to expand our existing services," said Robert Garcia, Children's Advocacy Center Executive Director.
Some of the services provided will be to help victims with immediate assistance such as food and shelter, mental assistance, legal advocacy, and information about their rights.
"Quite to often children and victims are victimized by the system that is there to protect them in the first place. So we try to provide a friendly safe haven place so they can start that healing process at the Children's Advocacy Center and get the resources necessary for them to become a productive citizen," said Garcia.
But finding these victims can be challenging.
"It's a clandestine crime that many times goes undetected. And we are trying to expose it, get to the victims, be able to offer their services, and be of assistance," said Villescas.
This is currently just a one time grant, but the Pharr Police Department hopes that results from this partnership will lead to more funding in years to come.