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Governor Cuomo Announces New Human Trafficking Awareness Efforts

More than 1,000 children in New York fall victim to human trafficking every year

Governor proclaims January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January 13, 2015 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced new efforts to combat human trafficking and provide help to survivors as they reintegrate safely into their community. This crime affects more than 1,000 children in New York each year, and it is estimated that nearly 18,000 people are brought into the United States annually for the same purpose. The Governor also proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and unveiled a new poster that lists possible trafficking red flags and a free, confidential hotline. View the poster here.

"Human trafficking strips victims of their fundamental rights, and in New York we have pledged to use every tool to put a stop to this terrible crime," Governor Cuomo said. "All people deserve a life free from forced servitude or abuse, and it takes the entire community in this state to make that happen. I encourage all to learn the warning signs, keep an eye out when traveling, and report anything suspicious to the proper authorities."

Affecting more than 1,000 children in New York State each year, human trafficking is the illegal trade or use of men, women and children against their will for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. While many cases of human trafficking go unreported, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that each year, nearly 18,000 people are brought in to the United States and held against their will for the purposes of labor and sex trafficking. The federal Justice Department also reports there are as many as 300,000 minors at risk of being trafficked in the United States.

The new poster, which aims to teach viewers to identify the possible signs of human trafficking and what to do if a suspicious situation arises, will be placed prominently in 27 service plazas along the New York State Thruway, other highway rest stops, and county social service district offices. The poster lists a toll-free hotline – 1-888-373-7888 – that can connect individuals with free and confidential help in 170 languages.

Thruway service areas are being targeted for this campaign because many traffickers physically move victims from their homes to other areas. If motorists utilizing the Thruway see something, often they will not know of who or where to turn to report an incident that looks like human trafficking. This campaign brings awareness to the mobile aspects of the crime and recognizes that motorists can be effective reporters to law enforcement.

Identifying trafficking victims can be a challenge. Traffickers often rely on various tactics to maintain physical and psychological control over their victims, which prevents those individuals from fleeing the situation or reporting their victimization to law enforcement. The proper identification of victims is critical to connecting them with the vital services available to assist survivors in meeting their needs.

Working in cooperation with the Governor’s Office, 13 executive agencies -- the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Division of Criminal Justice Services, Department of Health, Department of Labor, Department of State, Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, Office of Children and Family Services, Office of Mental Health, Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Office of Victim Services, Department of Agriculture & Markets, Division of Human Rights, and the State Police – comprise the state’s Interagency Task Force. They are partners in educating the public on how to identify the signs of human trafficking, training local government and law enforcement officials on identifying individuals who may have been trafficked, proposing legislation to crack down on traffickers, and developing strategies for referring survivors to local support services.

New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales said, “Human trafficking is a growing and often underreported crime across the country and New York State. These posters, as part of this overall effort, will encourage people traveling through the State to be vigilant for suspected situations of human trafficking so they can immediately report it to the proper authorities. The Task Force commends Governor Cuomo’s efforts to bring awareness to this heinous problem.”

Albany District Attorney David Soares said, “Human Trafficking Awareness Month shines a light on the often overlooked crimes of sex and labor trafficking. Most people believe these crimes are not happening locally, but they are. Trafficking is one of the most underreported crimes in New York, and awareness efforts are the key to bringing these cases forward. I applaud the work of the state agencies promoting this awareness campaign, and hope that victims reach out for help to the many agencies available to assist.”

Michael C. Green, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, said, “Law enforcement training is one of our key responsibilities and since 2008, more than 5,000 law enforcement and other professionals, including those from faith-based and non-profit social service organizations, have attended trainings so they can better identify and investigate human trafficking cases and help its victims. As a former prosecutor, I know how difficult it can be for victims to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement. We will continue our work to help ensure that police and prosecutors have the training that allows them to handle these difficult cases, holding those who traffic children accountable and supporting individuals victimized by trafficking as they try to rebuild their lives.”

Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Roberto Velez said, “The Office of Children and Family Services has been working for years to put a stop to trafficking, which robs children of the opportunity to live their lives free of abuse and neglect. A large number of trafficked individuals are children and youth, many of whom were a part of the child welfare system. For that reason, the Office of Children and Family Services has partnered with the International Organization for Adolescents through the ‘ChildRight: New York’ project to identify youth vulnerable to trafficking, and provide services and training sessions for child welfare professionals in six counties, in New York City, and on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation. Our awareness and education efforts are growing each year to turn the tide on trafficking and give all of our children the bright futures they deserve.”

New York State’s anti-human trafficking law, which took effect Nov. 1, 2007, takes a comprehensive and coordinated approach to fighting human trafficking. The law created new crimes of sex and labor trafficking, a process to provide survivors with services and assistance and established the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking. Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Agenda would further crack down on traffickers and provide further protections to victims.

For information on services for trafficking survivors go to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance website. Child welfare professionals and those who work with children can visit the Office of Children and Family Services website to learn about red flags and how to help survivors.

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