The Department of Justice recently awarded Tucson Police a $740,000 grant to focus more attention on human trafficking cases by increasing undercover operations, training other southern Arizona agencies and offering resources to victims.
The number of reported human trafficking cases in Arizona jumped 50 percent last year, according to new numbers from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. There were 116 cases of human trafficking reported to the hotline in 2015, compared to 77 in 2014.
In 2015, 96 of the reported cases involved sex-trafficking, while 12 involved labor trafficking. Experts say the actual number of cases is much higher because it's a crime that often goes unreported.
In recent years, TPD shifted its focus when looking at human trafficking cases. This means a greater emphasis on offering resources to victims.
"The difference now is that we have this other side, these resources that we can at least offer," said TPD Lt. Brian Parker. "Then it's entirely up to the individual that we're making contact with to take advantage of those services."
With this newly awarded grant, TPD can now offer these resources to every victim they speak to. TPD formed a task force with CODAC, a local recovery and wellness organization who also received the same grant from the DOJ.
"We've called them in the middle of the night and they'll send someone out immediately so we can try and make contact with these individuals and hopefully get them out of the cycle that they're stuck in," said Parker.
Since receiving the grant in October, TPD has made 100 arrests in human trafficking cases. Parker says three of the victims agreed to seek help through the resources offered.
"I don't think we can get to a true trafficking victim whether that's labor or sex unless we specifically focus on trying to draw these people out making the arrest," he said. "And then offering the services on the backside of that."