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Feds Unsure If Grant Programs For American Indian Sex Trafficking Victims Helped Any Of Them

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Government officials have no idea how many Native American victims of sex trafficking have been helped by federal programs aimed at the problem, a congressional watchdog reported Friday.

“The Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security administered at least 50 grant programs from fiscal years 2013 through 2016 that could help address Native American human trafficking,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said. “However, the total number of Native American victims who received services under these grant programs is unknown.”

Consequently, it will be difficult to determine where to focus aid efforts for American Indians, according to GAO.

Additionally, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Attorney’s Offices have responsibility for investigating and prosecuting Native American trafficking crimes.

But those agencies don’t always record if victims were Native Americans “because that information may not generally be relevant to the case or it may have the potential to identify particular victims,” the report said. “Therefore, the total number of federal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions that involved Native American victims is unknown.”

Regardless, “the absence of data collection by granting agencies regarding the Native American status of human trafficking victims served hinders their ability to determine whether their victim assistance goals are being met,” the report continued. (RELATED: DC Police Debunk Human Trafficking Theory Behind Missing Girls In DC)

Agencies do, however, denote if a trafficking case occurred on tribal land. (RELATED: 26-Year Police Officer Charged With Sex Trafficking Involving A Minor)

“There were 14 federal investigations and two federal prosecutions of human trafficking offenses in Indian country from fiscal years 2013 through 2016,” the report said. “From fiscal years 2013 through 2015, there were over 6,100 federal human trafficking investigations and approximately 1,000 federal human trafficking prosecutions, overall.”

The number of actual cases involving Native Americans is likely underestimated, according to GAO.

Additionally, tribal governments can’t prosecute non-American Indian offenders, “even if the victim is Native American and the crime occurred in Indian country,” the report said.

American Indians are considered a population that is vulnerable to sex trafficking, according to GAO.

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