FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: David Chapman
Phone: (904) 255-3004
Cell: (904) 524-6626
NELSON ADDS RESOURCES TO TACKLE HUMAN TRAFFICKING
In an effort to better combat human trafficking in the 4th Circuit, State Attorney Melissa Nelson today announced the office has created a new section that is dedicated to pursuing and prosecuting offenders engaged in trafficking other people.
The Human Trafficking initiative will be led by Assistant State Attorney Erin Wolfson, a veteran prosecutor who most recently was part of the office’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) reviewing the circuit’s untested rape kits. Wolfson has spent the majority of her eight-year career in the Special Assault division focused on crimes against women and children and said the new role is a natural transition.
“I’ve worked in several areas of the office, but always preferred working on issues involving women and children,” said Wolfson. “I’m passionate about it.”
Wolfson will be joined on the unit by newly hired State Attorney Investigator Richard Trew.
Trew was with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for nearly 20 years prior to joining the State Attorney’s Office this month. Since 2008, Trew assisted in the investigation and successful prosecution of more than 40 defendants related to federal human trafficking violations.
The Human Trafficking initiative falls under the office’s Special Prosecution division and will be part of the newly formed and wide-ranging Human Rights section that will provide targeted responses to a number of violations.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Mac Heavener, who oversees the Special Prosecution division, has extensive experience prosecuting human trafficking cases from his years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.
“It’s an important issue. These are crimes that reach just about every area,” said Heavener. “Drugs, sex crimes, assault, robberies … you have to have allocated resources because these cases take extensive time and effort.”
Heavener said the federal response to these crimes has always been strong and the additional dedicated resources at the state level will ensure more attention and flexibility with investigations and prosecutions.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time of awareness and action to end all forms of slavery.
According to recent statistics by the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida received 1,892 reports of human trafficking — a 54 percent increase from the prior year. And according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline operated by Polaris, Florida ranks No. 3 in human trafficking cases reported by state.
“These crimes affect some of the most vulnerable in our community,” said Nelson. “Adding these dedicated resources is a way we can help those who are preyed upon and break a vicious cycle.”
Download the official release below: