Cracking down on sex trafficking in New Jersey

By Valerie Vainieri Huttle - NorthJersey.com

ALMOST 150 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery still has a foothold in the United States.

Until recently, human trafficking has remained in the shadows of society. Victims, often children and vulnerable women, are too afraid and dependent on traffickers to break their silence and seek help. Exploited for years, they are coerced into prostitution, labor and drug activity. When they finally have a chance to regain their freedom, they are prosecuted for the crimes they were forced to commit while enslaved, while the real perpetrators remain untouched by the law.

Division of Criminal Justice figures show 179 cases of sex and labor trafficking reported in New Jersey in the past seven years, a gross underestimate by experts who put the figure in the thousands.

On a national level, the U.S. State Department estimates that 50,000 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States annually. That is on top of 100,000 victims already in our country when they are enslaved.

This significant and dangerous reporting discrepancy comes as no surprise when victims fear coming forward.

While human trafficking is often seen as an international issue, there is much that New Jersey can and must do to address this modern day slavery.

I recently introduced the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act. The bill, which has bipartisan support, will focus on creating awareness, prosecuting traffickers, supporting survivors and reducing opportunities for trafficking in our communities. It will also provide law enforcement officials with the training and tools they need to catch and punish perpetrators.

This is critical because New Jersey seems to be lagging behind in this area, as noted by a recent report by a leading national anti-trafficking organization, the Polaris Project.

This legislation is the product of consultation with experts and advocates, including the New Jersey Coalition against Human Trafficking. This alliance is comprised of diverse organizations, including the Junior League, the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the League of Women Voters and the state Association of Jewish Federations.

We are committed to preventing trafficking, prosecuting perpetrators and providing a safe haven for victims.

Because of the vast network required to support and enable human trafficking, we must create a more coordinated effort to crack down on this insidious trade. This is particularly important with the 2014 Super Bowl set to take place right in our own back yard. Based on statistics from previous bowl games, there is often a sharp increase in human trafficking leading up to the event, and Bergen County could unwittingly become ripe for perpetrators preying on victims.

The vast majority of human trafficking victims are underage girls, many of whom are plucked from our own streets – missing and exploited children who are easy prey for their captors. We cannot allow New Jersey to be a host for domestic and international human trafficking.

As President Obama recently said when speaking on the evils of human trafficking, "Our people and our children are not for sale." It's time to start speaking up and cracking down.
Original article

ALMOST 150 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery still has a foothold in the United States.

Until recently, human trafficking has remained in the shadows of society. Victims, often children and vulnerable women, are too afraid and dependent on traffickers to break their silence and seek help. Exploited for years, they are coerced into prostitution, labor and drug activity. When they finally have a chance to regain their freedom, they are prosecuted for the crimes they were forced to commit while enslaved, while the real perpetrators remain untouched by the law.

Division of Criminal Justice figures show 179 cases of sex and labor trafficking reported in New Jersey in the past seven years, a gross underestimate by experts who put the figure in the thousands.

On a national level, the U.S. State Department estimates that 50,000 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States annually. That is on top of 100,000 victims already in our country when they are enslaved.

This significant and dangerous reporting discrepancy comes as no surprise when victims fear coming forward.

While human trafficking is often seen as an international issue, there is much that New Jersey can and must do to address this modern day slavery.

I recently introduced the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act. The bill, which has bipartisan support, will focus on creating awareness, prosecuting traffickers, supporting survivors and reducing opportunities for trafficking in our communities. It will also provide law enforcement officials with the training and tools they need to catch and punish perpetrators.

This is critical because New Jersey seems to be lagging behind in this area, as noted by a recent report by a leading national anti-trafficking organization, the Polaris Project.

This legislation is the product of consultation with experts and advocates, including the New Jersey Coalition against Human Trafficking. This alliance is comprised of diverse organizations, including the Junior League, the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the League of Women Voters and the state Association of Jewish Federations.

We are committed to preventing trafficking, prosecuting perpetrators and providing a safe haven for victims.

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