Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has signed an executive order creating a fund to assist victims of human trafficking and support law enforcement efforts, one of several initiatives to combat the crime. Assets seized through the arrest of criminals involved with human trafficking will be used to create the fund.

“This criminal activity, which occurs throughout the state and country, must be confronted aggressively,” Kittleman said. “We will not sit by and allow individuals to be exploited for profit by these callous criminals.

“Because this illegal activity is hidden and driven underground, it’s easy to think it doesn’t occur in Howard County,” he said. “But we know from working with our police department that it does exist here, and the impact on victims is devastating. We will take whatever steps we can to arrest the perpetrators and assist those who have been victimized.”

The fund to assist victims and law enforcement will work similarly to the drug assets forfeiture account, in which assets seized through illegal drug activity are used for substance abuse prevention and education, police enforcement and training, and other needs specific to fighting the problem.

Creating such a fund was one of the recommendations presented by the Human Trafficking Task Force created by the Howard County Council last year. The task force’s report, released Dec. 1, 2014, contains 20 recommendations in four categories.