In December 2006, the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) awarded a three-year federal grant to the Fort Worth Police Department with the purpose of developing a Human Trafficking Unit. After the grant expired, the unit continued to exist, but was composed of just one detective.
In 2014, Fort Worth Police Department employee Felicia Grantham felt a calling to start a community conversation between the police and other key stakeholders in the community to discuss ways of collaborating to better address needs relating to victim services and at-risk juvenile runaways. The conversation started with just a few participating agencies, but word quickly spread and more and more organizations and individuals wanted to be part of that collaborative effort. In 2016 the Tarrant County 5-Stones Taskforce was officially sanctioned by the Chief of Police to be an arm of the Fort Worth Police Department and would serve to connect law enforcement with the community regarding the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking. The meetings became a monthly discussion focused on developing specific goals to reduce and respond to trafficking within Tarrant County.
Two of the first projects the taskforce organizations collaborated on were a film screening and a bus tour. The film, The Long Night, was shown in a large university classroom and a couple hundred people from the community came to learn more about the topic of human trafficking. After the film a panel of experts that discussed the film, the definition of trafficking, and answered participant questions. Around the same time, several organizations worked together to organize a bus tour that drove observers around the city and pointed out locations where trafficking had been discovered or places where it might be present, all the while educating people on the basics of the problem.
In 2017, the taskforce began partnering with Unbound North Texas to conduct a Not In My City event which sought to mobilize volunteers to outreach into the community and educate businesses and individuals about trafficking and provide flyers with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number. In 2018, the taskforce started an annual billboard campaign called Trafficking Starts Here which emphasized how many predators use the internet and social media to groom and exploit vulnerable people. In 2020, a press conference was held to highlight the billboard campaign and raise awareness of both trafficking and the taskforce.
Over the years, the taskforce has grown and now has multiple organizations represented with 50-60 regular meeting attendees. Each meeting starts with a time of networking, then the public has the opportunity to hear from law enforcement and their successes and challenges regarding trafficking cases. After this, each meeting hosts a presenter that educates people on various aspects of the crime and responses to it. In Fall 2020, the taskforce expanded its mission to include adult sex trafficking as well as minors.
Another milestone in 2020 was the creation of the 5 Stones Foundation. This foundation was created to support anti-trafficking and victim advocacy efforts in Tarrant County, while encouraging collaboration. This foundation provides direct financial support to 501c3 organizations that are members of the 5-Stones Taskforce and which provide victim support, advocacy, and disruption activities with the goal of ending sex trafficking in Tarrant County.
In addition to the taskforce growing and the creation of the foundation, the Fort Worth Police Department’s Human Trafficking Unit has also grown. After much internal effort and the support of the public, by 2021, the unit has grown to two detectives, two officers, a civilian, and a sergeant. In a city as large as Fort Worth and with a crime as prolific as human trafficking, there is still a need for more staffing in this unit, but even so, the Human Trafficking Unit along with the 5-Stones Taskforce and 5 Stones Foundation are together making an impact on trafficking in Tarrant County.