The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition announced Wednesday that it is one of seven projects nationwide selected for the U.S. Department of Justice grant award of $1.5 million for the development of human trafficking task forces.

According to a press release, the award, titled “FY 2016 Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking, Purpose Area 1” given $900,000 over a three-year period to Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas (CIS-HOT).

Mike Harper, CIS-HOT Executive Director said the presence of human trafficking in the Waco community is an unfortunate reality and it puts children and youth as risk.

“We have the unique opportunity, as the fiscal agent of this project, to increase awareness and education around this issue as it relates to our schools,” Harper said. “Our hope is that we can provide the support needed to create effective and lasting change in this area.”

Harper said the award not only recognizes the prevalence of human trafficking in the Heart of Texas region, but also the collaboration that is taking place to fight crime.

The McLennan County Sheriff’s Office received the remaining $600,000 to collaborate with other agencies in the development of a multidisciplinary human trafficking task force that implements victim-centered, collaborative and sustainable approaches to combat human trafficking.

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said this type of behavior won’t be tolerated here.

“We’re shutting it down, and look forward to working with other law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to send the message loud and clear,” McNamara said.

Coalition leader Susan Peters said many agencies have been working for years or even decades to fight human trafficking.

Agencies included in the award either as task force partners and dub-grantees include UnBound, the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, McLennan County Criminal District Attorney, the United States Attorney’s Office, Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Refugee Services of Texas, The Family Abuse Center, Mission Waco, Family Health Center, Klaras Center for Families, Heart of Texas Region Mental Health Mental retardation Center, Cenikor, Lone Star Legal Aid, The Law Office of Callahan & King and more.

“The formation of the Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition and the funding provided by this grant increases our capacity to really work together to make the Heart of Texas a hostile environment for human trafficking and a safe place for our kids,” Peters said.