KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new task force plans to combine grassroots organizations with city and county law enforcement in a united effort to fight human trafficking.
The new group met Monday night at East 31st Street and the Paseo and filled all 60 seats in the room.
Bishop Tony Caldwell, founder of the Justice and Dignity Center, planned the event for months.
Caldwell said their group is called Hands Across the River Anti Human Trafficking and Criminal Behavior Collaboration Coalition Task Force.
The groups goal, according to Caldwell, is “to reach across state lines, over the river, by sharing information and resources on all levels of government, law enforcement, community agencies, street social groups, and grassroots organizations uniting to reduce human trafficking and criminal behavior on both sides of the river.”
He says the task force is made up of problem solvers who see the scourge of human trafficking in KCK and KCMO.
“We’re watching the criminal element commit a crime in Missouri and run to Kansas and vice versa,” Caldwell said.
The task force has leaders who help thousands of vulnerable people in their communities.
“We already know what the problems are, but now we are coming up with solutions and how we can work together,” Caldwell said. “From the grassroots level all the way up to city hall”
Their goal is to share information.
“Being able to bridge those gaps is difficult with the politics in play,” Caldwell said.
County and city officials were at the meeting to talk about solutions.
“In order to go after the criminal, I need actual people who’s willing to sit in the courtroom and testify to this stuff,” Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree said.
It is a challenge to get those with information about criminal activity into a courtroom to tell what they know.
“They lose interest, they lose interest over time because it takes time for a case to come to trial," said KCK Police Chief Karl Oakman. "Emotionally, it’s not a big deal anymore.”
The task force leaders say to make a difference they need community engagement.
“I’ll tell you the other elephant in the room," Oakman said. "They’re not involved because they’re planning to retaliate against the person themselves.”
That's another problem the group formed to solve.