McDONOUGH – The Henry County Police Department sought to clarify what they viewed as misconceptions concerning human trafficking in the county during a presentation at Tuesday's Board of Commissioners meeting.
Captain Richard Harned told the board that that a leading Georgia child advocacy agency reported that the county had 84 human trafficking referrals since 2016. He further explained how those numbers were developed, how they were associated with Henry County and why the information reported was not an accurate representation for Henry County.
“A referral necessarily does not mean trafficking has occurred. Regarding the numbers used in this presentation today, it was explained that referrals are received (to an agency) and evaluated by standardized evaluation criteria and then they are referred out through a screening process,” Harned said. “As it relates to the stats that I posted earlier, it does not mean that 84 acts of human trafficking occurred in Henry County.”
Harned said it meant that on 84 occasions, there was a call of concern that something might have been happening, and it was enough to warrant “looking at it to see if it was, in fact, a trafficking situation.”
Harned said the connection between the county and the numbers presented refers to the fact that the individual was living in the county at the time of the referral.
He shared with the Commission that he verified potential human trafficking cases with local partners including the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, McDonough, Hampton and Locust Grove Police, as well as external agencies like the DA’s Office, DFACS, Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center, the FBI and the GBI, all reporting that there are no human trafficking cases occurring in the county at this time.
However, while there were no human trafficking cases going on in the county, the matter is still a very serious one, he said.
“It is a serious issue and it is one that the community needs to come together for — the community groups, county government and citizens in general,” Harned said. “We can redirect the conversation to properly educate individuals to recognize what human trafficking really is and how to report it so we can all help our children and other adult victims of this heinous crime.”