Long Island is suffering under a trafficking crisis for years. They are under the top 20 impacted states across the country.
The trafficking – both for labor and for sex – is taking place in the nice, clean neighborhoods with good schools and well-known beach communities. But people don´t see it. It´s like a world next to their world, which they can and often want to overlook.
Out of 120 trafficked people who got rescued between 2009 and 2019 two-third were sex trafficking survivors, and of the rest, half had experienced both forms of trafficking.
Most traffickers belong to one of the local gangs but there are also traffickers who work independently of the gangs, trafficking a fewer number of women. The traffickers often get the victims addicted to drugs, which weaken them and make them dependent on the next dose, which means they will return to their traffickers to get it. The gangs brand the girls, take away their personal belongings, give them no access to phones to contact their families and keep them under close guard. Eventually, most of the girls break and when they get help offered are unable to accept it because the world of trafficking is the world they know and they can´t break free from the control of their traffickers.
Because traffickers seek out the weak – homeless girls, already addicted women, girls in shelters – the staff receives training to spot a trafficker before he can lure a girl away. Though often, this is difficult. The men come off as charming, young and neat. They make all kinds of promises and slowly brainwash the girls into dependence.
To get a grip on the difficult task the Suffolk District Attorney and the police joined forces with the FBI and launched a Human Trafficking Task Unit and installed a human trafficking court that does not treat the women as prostitutes but victims.
Long Island also works on raising awareness. Trained individuals speak at school, talk to parents, nurses and organize cyber safety courses for teens and young adults.
For the Human Trafficking month, which is January, Long Island hosted a conference to discuss the problem of ending (sex) slavery.
As always, the major task is to get the public to know about the problem, to keep their eyes open and call the authorities if they spot signs of trafficking.
So, pick up the phone and call the police if you think you see a victim of a trafficking crime – You might save a life!