February 28, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hold Polaris Accountable for their Vital Role
Albuquerque, NM – Attorney General Raúl Torrez, along with Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, and Attorneys General representing 33 other states, this week sent a letter to Congressional leaders, informing them of an issue of grave concern with the National Human Trafficking Hotline and requesting their assistance to preserve the critical joint federal-state effort to end trafficking.
Since 2007, Polaris has operated the National Human Trafficking Hotline with funding authorized by Congress. Many states rely on the National Hotline to forward tips of suspected human trafficking to local law enforcement to arrest traffickers, safely recover victims and uncover evidence of trafficking rings and operations.
In recent months, it was discovered that Polaris only forwards tips to state law enforcement about adult victims in limited circumstances. This practice is contrary to what Polaris advertises, to what states and organizations have come to expect from this partnership, and, the Attorneys General believe, to what Congress expects from its funding. Additionally, in some cases, states have discovered a delay of even several months before the Hotline shared tips with states.
“My Office has used the National Human Trafficking Hotline many times as we plan and execute special operations throughout the year which surround the human trafficking issue we have in New Mexico,” said AG Torrez. “To learn that the operators of the Hotline are failing to communicate important information to state stakeholders is detrimental to our efforts to investigate and prosecute human trafficking. In the hopes of protecting child and adult victims of human trafficking, I am happy to sign on to this important notice to Congress.”
Many states, federal agencies, and organizations have actively engaged the public in utilizing the Hotline for tips on trafficking in order to gather additional intelligence on trafficking operations, disrupt these criminal activities and recover victims. These newly discovered Polaris practices dramatically diminish the value of the Hotline to any of these efforts. Last year, General Fitch met with Polaris CEO Catherine Chen to discuss this matter and last week Generals Fitch and Jennings coordinated a meeting for state AGOs with Polaris to discuss this concern, but Polaris has indicated no intention to revise its policies.
In their letter to Congress, the Attorneys General wrote, “It appears to us that the Hotline is not performing the services it is already funded to perform. Without changes to Polaris’s operating procedures, our state anti-trafficking initiatives gain little from participation in the National Hotline. As such, individual states may be forced to establish their own state hotlines, as some already have begun to do. A nationally-run hotline not only achieves cost-efficiencies, but also ensures a uniform approach and allows for the collection of cross-state information with regard to human trafficking tips.”
The Attorneys General continued, “We urge Congress to ensure that Polaris makes changes to its current and reported planned tip reporting policies to begin forwarding tips regarding suspected human trafficking of adults, in a prompt manner, to the corresponding state’s law enforcement officials for their evaluation and response to ensure victim safety…We cannot afford to lose the benefits of this federal-state partnership to end trafficking.”
Attorneys General from the following states signed the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The full letter is attached.