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Arts and Sciences | Events | NewsApril 12, 2024

April 18 Human Trafficking Symposium Sheds Light on Dark Issues

Written By: Rachel Putman

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, in partnership with the United States Department of Homeland Security's Center for Countering Human Trafficking, Homeland Security Investigations, and the UAFS Department of Criminal Justice will host a symposium titled "Human Trafficking: Hear, Learn, Share" on Thursday, April 18.

This no-cost, one-day event is aimed at elevating awareness about human trafficking's impact on communities both locally and nationwide. The symposium will feature prominent human trafficking experts from across the country and will highlight the firsthand account of a survivor of human trafficking. Light refreshments will be provided.

The morning session, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to noon, is exclusively designed for law enforcement officers, offering them a unique opportunity to engage with and learn from experts and survivors alike. Attendees will be eligible for Arkansas CLEST hours for continued education, provided they register and sign in at the event. Entrance to morning sessions requires proof of law enforcement position.

The symposium continues into the afternoon, with public-facing talks from 1-4:30 p.m., at West Ark Church of Christ (900 N. Waldron Rd., Fort Smith). This public forum promises to deepen the conversation on human trafficking and encourage community-wide participation in countering this global issue.

"Human trafficking is one of the top illegal money-making operations with estimated global profits of $150 billion,” said Dr. Steve Wilson, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Department Head of Criminal Justice. “In the United States, during the 10-year span from 2011 to 2021, the number of people prosecuted for human trafficking increased from 729 persons to over 1600 persons, making it one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking. It has become a national, state, and local priority and educating the public and the criminal justice community, both current and future, is key to combating human trafficking. To that goal, the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Counter Human Trafficking’s Blue Campaign, Homeland Security Investigations, and the UAFS Department of Criminal Justice are proud to offer this symposium."

Students, faculty, staff, and members of the public are encouraged to register in advance through the provided Eventbrite link: Human Trafficking: Hear, Learn, Share Registration.

"Through this collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security, the UAFS Criminal Justice Department wishes to educate and provide a community forum about human trafficking,” said Dr. Mary Wuestewald, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Currently, there is a problem with under-reporting in our area, so the first step is outreach. This is the perfect opportunity for that, and the Department of Criminal Justice is honored to help spearhead the initiative for the UAFS community and the River Valley region."

More than 100 law enforcement officers are expected to attend, hearing from Tim Griffin, Attorney General for the State of Arkansas, and Clay Folkes, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.

Over the past year, Attorney General Tim Griffin has actively contributed to the fight against human trafficking in Arkansas. He initiated the inaugural Human Trafficking Summit, a landmark event aimed at uniting law enforcement, service providers, and the public in addressing human trafficking, which summit welcomed 1,500 participants in Little Rock in 2023. Additionally, Griffin oversaw the creation of the Statewide Tactical Operations Partnership (STOP) to combat human trafficking, and has commended anti-human trafficking operations in Northeast Arkansas, highlighting the importance of collaborative efforts in dismantling trafficking networks. 

The Human Trafficking Act of 2013 tasked the Arkansas Attorney General's office with leading a task force to combat all forms of human trafficking within Arkansas. This included developing a state plan to prevent trafficking, enhancing information sharing among agencies, raising public awareness, and creating law enforcement training curriculums.

Fowlkes too has been a vocal supporter of efforts to end human trafficking across the region, participating in multiple summits and symposiums on the topic over the past several years. 

The public, afternoon schedule is below: 

1 PM      Opening Remarks

Dr. Dave Stevens, Dean of Students | University of Arkansas Fort Smith

David Clay Fowlkes, U.S. Attorney | Western District of Arkansas

Tim Griffin Arkansas Attorney General

1:30PM Human Trafficking 101 + Overview of Trafficking in AR

Gerald “Jerry” Faulkner, Special Agent| Homeland Security Investigations

2 PM      PANEL: What Does Human Trafficking Look Like on Campus and in the public?

Jonathan Barry, Senior Engagement Manager | DHS Blue Campaign

Karl Flusche, Resident Agent in Charge | Homeland Security Investigations

Jason Ledford, Victim Assistance Specialist | Homeland Security Investigations

Angie Mahuron, Forensic Interviewer/Prevention Specialist | Hamilton Center for Child Advocacy

Matt Foster, HT Coordinator | Arkansas Human Trafficking Council

Margie Nobles, Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist | Crisis Intervention Center

Dr. Steve Wilson, Department Head/Associate Professor | University of Arkansas Fort Smith

3 PM      DHS Blue Campaign Resources Overview

Jonathan Barry, Senior Engagement Manager | DHS Blue Campaign

3:10PM CCHT Federal Strategy on Combating Human Trafficking

Glenn Dickson, Program Manager | Center for Countering Human Trafficking

3:20PM Human Trafficking – Lived Experience – Video

Rachel Thomas | HT Survivor

3:30PM Human Trafficking – Lived Experience

Leila Carter | HT Survivor

4:25PM Closing Remarks

Ray Ottman, Chief of Police | University of Arkansas Fort Smith


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