PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - The Portland Police Bureau is changing the way it investigates sex trafficking, by merging its human trafficking unit with its sex trafficking unit, and running the combined unit out of its central precinct downtown.
Chief Danielle Outlaw recently announced the consolidation, which would effectively pull officers that formerly worked under the Sex Trafficking Unit out of East Portland.
"Obviously that work overlaps quite a bit, so the decision was made to combine the units under one supervisor, under one division to better use the limited resources that we have," Commander Jeff Bell said, who oversees the Bureau's detectives division.
Advocates for victims of sex trafficking are concerned the consolidation will result in officers having less contact with victims, as the bureau focuses more on bigger investigations.
"It doesn’t make any sense that we would do away with something that’s already working," a former sex trafficking victim, who preferred to remain anonymous said.
The woman said she was rescued from her trafficker by a police sting, which ended in his arrest.
"To have that support from total strangers who really saw me at my worst meant so much to me," she said.
Critics of the consolidation worry there will be fewer missions that discourage trafficking, and that victims will have less access to officers.
Bell said officers will work to meet victims where they are, and when they need to talk.
In addition, the bureau recently received a grant to hire three new victim advocates to do outreach.
"We're still going to be able to connect them with the resources that help them, whether it's drug and alcohol counseling, family counseling, helping them housing, helping them get away from their abusers," Bell said.
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