(Update: adding Hummel response and video)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said Thursday the state departments of Justice and Human Services put out misleading data about the number of human trafficking victims in the county and around the state.
Thursday's announcement from the state state agencies said, “The state of Oregon identified 746 victims of human trafficking across Oregon in a 12-month period between October 2018 and October 2019.” An accompanying graphic listed 48 of those victims were reported in Deschutes County.
When Hummel first read the numbers, he was shocked.
“When I saw the data, I immediately got on the phone with the Department of Justice and asked them to send me the 48 criminal referrals.” Hummel said. He added that the response from the DOJ was that they had “no evidence to provide that there is criminal human trafficking in Deschutes County.”
Hummel said the department also told him the victims included in the count were not even necessarily victims in Oregon. It included people that could have been victimized in another state but sought assistance here. (NewsChannel 21 reached out to the Department of Justice for comment but had not received a reply.)
Despite the 48 trafficking victims the state reported in Deschutes County, Hummel said he has not prosecuted any human traffickers during his time in office, because such allegations have not been referred to his office by law enforcement agencies.
“The honest answer from everyone is, we don’t know if it’s happening in Deschutes County -- and if it is happening, we don’t know the actual numbers,” Hummel said. “We do know there have been no human trafficking cases prosecuted. We also know, not that it’s because I’m declining them, but they are not being referred to me.”
It appears the state’s tally, at least for Deschutes County, resulted from 48 people who sought counseling or services, or were brought to the attention of the anti-trafficking program at J Bar J Youth Services, according to Amy Martin, program manager of at: Project (Anti-Trafficking), now a separate organization.
Here's the release distributed Thursday to Oregon news media:
The state of Oregon has identified 746 victims of human trafficking across Oregon in a 12-month period between October 2018 and October 2019, according to new data collected by the Oregon Department of Justice and the Oregon Department of Human Services.
In commemoration of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, on Friday, Jan. 10, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Rebecca Jones Gaston, director of the DHS Child Welfare Program, will honor the efforts of Oregonians who work to prevent human trafficking, including an award honoring an inter-agency team which stopped a trafficking ring in Lane County.
The awards ceremony will also help raise awareness about Oregon’s current intervention efforts and recognize the work of Oregonians who are taking a trauma informed and victim-centered approach to trafficking intervention.
“Human trafficking and the exploitation of minors, sadly, affects every corner of Oregon," Rosenblum said. "The individuals and community members we are honoring on Human Trafficking Awareness Day represent the courage, trust, and strong inter-agency partnerships necessary to help keep our most vulnerable Oregonians, especially children, safe from traffickers.”
“DHS is proud to recognize the efforts of our Lane County and Clackamas Child Welfare awardees for their teamwork and collaboration,” said Jones Gaston. “Preventing human trafficking is not just one organization’s goal, it takes everyone to work together to make a difference in this issue, which is why the teamwork and passion exhibited by these awardees is so critical.”
Awards will be presented on Friday, Jan. 10 at the Oregon DOJ office at 100 SW Market Street in Portland, from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Media is welcome to attend.
Team Award: Lane County Team
Lane County Child Welfare Office: Susan Lopez, Tanya Huff, Melissa Erickson, Kyle Belknap, Bridget Byfield, Chuck Nyby, Melissa McCormack.
Federal Bureau of Investigation –Special Agent Isabel Scharn, Special Agent Damara Schlitz, SOS Joseph Peoples, Victim Specialist Florence Mackey.
Lane County Department of Youth Services Probation Officer Jordan Sies, DelBrico Kriner and MH specialist Martin Starr.
Eugene Police Department – Detective Curtis Newell, Detective Jed McGuire.
Albany Police Department- Officer Gabe Flores, Albany Police Department
Above & Beyond Award
Advocate: Tanel Tucker, Safety Compass
District Attorney: Mike Botthof, Multnomah County District Attorney
Law Enforcement: Officer Heather Hisel, Milwaukie Police Department
DHS: Kelly Walsh, Clackamas Child Welfare Office
Other: Tom Perez, EPIC
Victims of human trafficking can be any age, race, nationality, gender, or sexuality. If you are concerned that someone you know might be a victim of trafficking, call the Oregon Abuse Hotline – 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).