U COUNT is excited to announce the creation of a criminalist position with Fort Collins Police Services (FCPS) that will be working full-time on child exploitation and sex trafficking. This position was created out of the Safe Futures Initiative that U COUNT helped fund.
We have been involved locally in the fight against human trafficking for many years. U COUNT initially was asked to engage in sting operations with victim advocates, FCPS, and the Larimer County Sheriff's Office in a support and victim advocacy role. U COUNT has long supported Sarah’s Home, a licensed residential home here in Colorado for female teen survivors of sex trafficking. We support and partner with The Avery Center in Greeley as they use data and research to combat sex trafficking in Northern Colorado and beyond. We have donated to Street’s Hope, now Voluntad, an organization in Denver providing support services to those who have experienced a trafficking situation. U COUNT has also supported the Northern Colorado Human Trafficking Symposium, a biennial event hosted by Colorado State University.
In February 2020, we met with various City Council members as well as the Fort Collins mayor to share some troubling data produced by The Avery Center. It showed that Northern Colorado was driving a lot of the demand for commercial sexual exploitation. These discussions led to a meeting with the Fort Collins City Manager and FCPS. The goal was to discuss the research findings and start talking about how everyone involved could be more proactive in addressing this growing issue. Soon after, the COVID pandemic hit, and all conversations ground to a halt.
Thankfully, we were contacted in November 2021 by FCPS to revisit our discussions. Their own research had since corroborated the data we had presented to them earlier. FCPS wanted to know if we thought there would be community interest for funding an initiative designed to work against this troubling trend, and if we could gather potential donors to get it off the ground. We financially committed first, then brought other donors to the table via further data-driven meetings. Our existing relationships with law enforcement and other community entities have borne real fruit.
For this new initiative, Officer Laura Knudsen has been appointed as the full-time criminalist with the sole purpose of working cases of child exploitation and human trafficking. Laura has been working on trafficking cases throughout her career but will now be able to do it full-time. This means that she can concentrate wholly on investigating and preventing trafficking in our community. Officer Knudsen will take a proactive, victim-centered approach, focusing on education, prevention, and investigation with the intent to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. We expect to move forward with her in a collaborative manner, made even more incredible by the fact that Laura Knudsen calls Timberline her home church. She understands the mission of U COUNT from a kingdom view and is now able to add her law enforcement lens in a very specific and targeted approach in the fight against human trafficking.
U COUNT could not do what we do without the support of our Timberline family. We are blessed beyond measure with your commitment to our mission. Thank you for continuing to care about the vulnerable and exploited in our community and beyond. Your donations and prayers have helped make the Safe Futures Initiative possible. We are so grateful for all you do, and now our entire community will feel the impact as well.
You can read the full FCPS announcement of this initiative and Laura's appointment here.
U COUNT fights sex trafficking through prevention, awareness, and restoration efforts on three fronts through our global projects, local efforts, and our Marketplace initiative. In 16 years, U COUNT has raised and donated over $2.7 million to help support front-line organizations and sold over $1M in products handmade by women both locally and globally who are at risk or who have exited sex trafficking.