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Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008
State sponsors trainings designed to help law enforcement,
victims’ services professionals identify, investigate and prosecute
human trafficking cases and assist victims
First of 10 sessions across New York State held in Albany County today
The identification, investigation and effective prosecution of human trafficking – the coercion of women, men and children into prostitution or illegal labor – and the variety of services now available to its victims were the key topics today at the first in a series of trainings for law enforcement officials and victim services providers throughout New York State.
Sponsored by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the trainings are designed to further educate law enforcement and social services professionals about the state’s human trafficking law, which took effect a little more than a year ago.
More than 50 law enforcement and victims’ services professionals attended today’s training at a DCJS training classroom in Colonie (Albany County); nine other trainings will be held across the state through April 2009.
Human trafficking – often described as “modern-day slavery” – requires that law enforcement professionals re-think the way they investigate and prosecute prostitution or undocumented worker cases, as well as the manner in which they treat the individuals forced to engage in those activities.
“The training is designed to help police recognize that what appears to be a routine prostitution or undocumented worker case may actually involve force and coercion of innocent victims,” said DCJS Commissioner Denise E. O’Donnell. “At the same time, it’s important for law enforcement to understand that victims of human trafficking are just that – victims – and those men, women and sometimes, children, should feel free to come forward without fears of prosecution or deportation.”
Added OTDA Commissioner David A. Hansell: “It is important that community organizations are aware of the full array of services available so they can reassure victims they are safe and get them the protection and support needed to rebuild their lives. Providing assistance that is as seamless and stress-free as possible will help put victims on a path to self-reliance.”
The half-day training explored a variety of topics, such as: identifying sex and labor trafficking and sex tourism; successful investigation techniques; the benefits of multi-jurisdictional investigations; and the state and federal process of certifying victims for services. In addition to today’s training, the other sessions are as follows:
- Tuesday, Jan. 6: Erie County Central Police Services Public Safety Training Academy, Buffalo
- Wednesday, Jan. 7: Monroe County Public Safety Training Facility, Rochester
- Tuesday, Feb. 3: New York State Power Authority, White Plains
- Wednesday, Feb. 4: Rockland County Police and Public Safety Academy, Pomona
- Wednesday, Feb. 25: Clinton County Emergency Services, Plattsburgh
- Monday, March 9: Nassau County Police Academy, Massapequa Park
- Tuesday, March 10: Suffolk County Police Academy, Brentwood
- Thursday, April 9: St. John’s University campus, Staten Island
- Tuesday, April 21: New York State Police Troop D Headquarters, Oneida
Sex trafficking can occur in brothels and massage parlors, and can be promoted in advertisements in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet. Men and women who work as domestic help, in restaurants, factories and on farms can fall victim to labor trafficking. Human trafficking victims can be foreign-born, citizens or legal residents of the United States.
New York’s law, which took effect Nov. 1, 2007, is designed to attack the “supply” side of human trafficking by creating two new crimes: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. It also gives prosecutors the ability to bring charges against purveyors of so-called “prostitution tourism.”
The law attacks demand by eliminating the distinction between trafficking and promoting prostitution, and increasing the penalty for patronizing a prostitute from three months in jail to up to a year. It also created a broad range of services for victims.
The trainings are being taught by Andra Ackerman, director of human trafficking prevention and policy at DCJS, and Christa Stewart, coordinator of human trafficking programming and supervisor of the Newcomer Transition Unit at OTDA.
A seasoned sex crimes and child abuse prosecutor, Ackerman worked for district attorneys’ offices in Rensselaer, Albany and Schenectady counties before joining DCJS in September 2008. She is a graduate of the State University at Buffalo’s School of Law, Siena College and Hudson Valley Community College.
Stewart is an experienced immigration and human rights attorney, who served as director of legal services at The Door, a youth development agency in New York City, and co-founded and directed Safe Horizon’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative before joining OTDA. She is a graduate of Binghamton University and Brooklyn Law School.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; operation of the DNA databank and criminal fingerprint files; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry and a toll-free telephone number (1-800-262-3257) that allows anyone to research the status of an offender.
The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) oversees a range of the state’s most important programs for its low-income residents, with a focus on employment wherever possible, and to provide leadership, guidance and support to local departments of social services in the administration of these programs. The agency’s primary mission includes enhancing the economic security of low-income working families; assisting work-capable public assistance recipients in achieving entry into the workforce; assisting individuals with priority needs other than work-readiness in accessing appropriate benefits and services; and enhancing child well-being and reducing child poverty.