U.S. Sen. Bob Casey on Friday wrote a letter calling on the Department of Justice to "strongly consider Philadelphia's request" for assistance in combating human trafficking through the DOJ's Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking Grant.
"Despite being the country's fifth largest city and a major regional transportation hub, Philadelphia does not have a law enforcement group focused on combating human trafficking," Casey said in a statement.
"This funding is critical to ensuring that the trafficking problem in Philadelphia is addressed and that the victims are protected."
The grant, if awarded, would be used to create the Philadelphia Anti-Trafficking Team, which would investigate and fight human trafficking in Philadelphia through a team consisting of two prosecutors, two detectives and a social worker.
"Recent cases in the city unfortunately highlight the need for this grant," Casey wrote in the letter.
"For example, in October 2011 four mentally challenged adults were found locked in a sub-basement boiler room in Philadelphia. This discovery led to an investigation into four traffickers who were found to be involved in beating, prostituting and even killing mentally challenged captives as they transported them across the country for a decade while stealing their benefits. This tragic story underscores the need for additional resources to help address this problem in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth."
The Philadelphia Anti-Trafficking Team would also operate a 24-hour hotline, train 8,000 Philadelphia police officers on how to identify human trafficking and collaborate with stakeholders in community groups and the cultural, labor and business communities to encourage the reporting of human trafficking.
"All too often in Philadelphia, women and men are abused, manipulated, and sold in the underground world of human trafficking," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement.
"This grant will allow my office to partner with local, state, and federal authorities to find and free these victims and apprehend and prosecute their perpetrators."