The state of New York has become a crossroads for human trafficking, prompting a conference Wednesday with law enforcement, prosecutors and nonprofits to help raise awareness about the crime, as well as how to prevent it.
Leaders with the Western District of New York Human Trafficking Task Force are taking a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to increase the number of investigations, arrests and prosecutions across the state.
"No community is immune to it,” said Maeve Huggins, assistant U.S. attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Western District. “It's something that impacts both our local economy and on an individual level for families, minors, as well as adult victims that we see.”
Victims of either sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or domestic violence and child trafficking were all prevalent topics of discussion that included corresponding state and federal laws.
Law enforcement leaders on the task force say they've seen a lot of trafficking cases and continue to collaborate with state and federal partners.
"To not only identify victims but to be able to link these victims into services. It's in rural communities. It's in city communities. It's in suburban communities. And there's no doubt that's there more of it," said Jonathan Hanna, Western District of New York Human Trafficking Task Force.
Task force members say they're also encouraging neighbors and families to look out for one another and report any suspicious activity, if they see or suspect it.
"We can act as the eyes and ears in our communities to help bring this issue to the forefront," said Huggins.