City leaders came together Tuesday to announce the creation of the Human Trafficking Intervention Court.
The program is a two-step process that looks to see if those who have been arrested for prostitution are victims of sex trafficking. If the person is considered to be a victim, they will begin treatment and counseling before moving to the second part, which consists of finding stable housing and job preparations.
Judge Casey Moreland will preside over the court. He said in a press conference Tuesday how necessary it is that victims have access to help.
"This new initiative will stop the cycle of shuffling prostitutes through our courtroom without addressing the underlying reason of why they're there in the first place," Moreland said.
Nashville is the first city in the Southeast to launch such a program. Leaders said Music City is only the fifth jurisdiction in the country to create the intervention court.
Mayor Megan Barry was also a part of the press conference. She stressed the importance of understanding that sex trafficking is a growing problem in Nashville.
"You might think it doesn't happen here, but it does," Barry said.
The numbers seem to support that.
In 2014, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation handled at least 100 cases of minors involved in sex trafficking in Nashville alone. The TBI also reported nearly 600 adults involved as well. City leaders said worldwide the human trafficking business is valued at more than $150 billion.
Activists applauded the first-in-the-state program, calling Nashville a nationwide leader in ending trafficking.
" Tennessee is one of the front runners in the country in terms of our work with human trafficking victims, and that's due entirely to the collaborations that happen in this community," Ondrea Johnson said.
The program is funded by the drug intervention program as well as other agencies. It will not cost participants any money to be a part of the program. The Human Trafficking Intervention Court will begin on February 9.