Ellis County community leaders and law enforcement officials took a united stand against the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth on Tuesday, Nov. 30, by signing a memorandum of understanding that provides investigative resources and assistance to victims.
Leslie Deen, Ellis County Children’s Advocacy Center executive director, said getting the MOU and protocols in place has been a group effort since the advocacy center recognized a trend of child sex trafficking victims and knew something had to be done.
“We have our normal how we respond to child abuse, but we started realizing that these kiddos needed something very different than our traditional sexual abuse cases,” Deen said. “We started looking at what are other agencies are doing across the state. We came across the governor’s office’s child sex trafficking team. They were working with child advocacy teams all over the state to develop each community’s response to child sex trafficking. Through that, Dr. Tomi Grover with the state helped us facilitate a community-wide response.”
Over the past year, the advocacy center, the governor’s team and the Ellis County and District Attorney’s Office held three summit meetings that brought in representatives from federal and state agencies, local law enforcement, hospital systems, nonprofits, local governments, the legal community, mental health service providers, and advocates.
Several objectives were identified, and protocols were developed, including the measures the county will take if it becomes aware of a child or youth victim of trafficking.
Grover said it’s been good to see the local support for the project.
“I am just so proud of the work that all of you have put in over these months in developing protocols,” Grover said. “The rest of the story is yet to be written. You have all laid the groundwork to make sure that we have a good start for how we work on these cases into the future.”
Ellis County Sheriff Brad Norman described the MOU and its protocols as “a great investigative tool.”
“It gives law enforcement more resources and everything to investigate those types of crimes,” Norman said. “It will be a huge asset to Ellis County.”
Waxahachie Police Chief Wade Goolsby shared Norman’s view.
“I think it’s an incredible benefit for us,” Goolsby said. “When we get an investigation involving children, we need all the assets and benefits we can get to bring an offender to justice and bring a good resolution to the case.”
Ellis County and District Attorney Ann Montgomery said many people supported the project throughout the entire process.
“It means everything to have all of the stakeholders here because it means that they are invested,” Montgomery said. “We want to take care of our victims and moving forward we have the protocols in place to do that.”