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A state commission formed to review and develop a plan for addressing the problem of human trafficking in the state met for the first time Monday.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the expertise of members on the newly formed Human Trafficking Commission will go a long way in helping find solutions to tackle a growing issue in the state.

“We know this is an issue like elsewhere in the nation,” Stenehjem said. “There’s a lot of people (here) who have something to offer.”

The group spent the afternoon discussing basic issues related to human trafficking and hearing from several representatives from law enforcement, government and groups who work with victims of abuse.

Lawmakers gave Stenehjem the authority to create the commission last session. The group of more than a dozen members is tasked with creating a comprehensive state plan for providing services to trafficking victims and must provide annual reports on its activities.

Legislation also provided the attorney general $500,000 in general fund dollars for grants to organizations that provide services to human trafficking victims for the 2015-17 biennium.

“This is not a victimless crime. They are actual human beings,” Stenehjem said.

Christina Sambor, coordinator for anti-trafficking group FUSE, agreed.

“This is something that effects all of us,” said Sambor, who added that it will take a collaborative approach.

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(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)

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