Prosecutors, victim advocates, tribal leaders and law enforcement officers from across the state convened at Haskell Indian Nations University on Tuesday for a three-day conference promoting public safety for American Indians.
In opening remarks Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom focused on the “horrific epidemic” of sexual assault of American Indian women.
“Women in Indian Country are two and a half times more likely to be sexually assaulted,” Grissom said. “That is astonishing.”
Sessions that are running through Thursday focus on a variety of topics, including sexual assault, gang violence and human trafficking on American Indian reservations.
About 125 people registered for the event, and Venida Chenault, Haskell’s vice president for academics, highlighted the theme of partnership between law enforcement and the community in addressing crime problems plaguing American Indians.
“It won’t be law enforcement alone that solves these problems,” Chenault said.
One of the first steps is raising awareness that American Indians face different public safety challenges, even off reservations, Grissom said.
The presence of local law enforcement, such as representatives from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Lawrence Police Department, was encouraging, Grissom said, because it shows the commitment of police to learn and understand the unique public safety needs of the American Indian community in the area.
Grissom said a similar event is tentatively planned for 2013 in Iowa.