GOSHEN – January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus is asking residents to recognize that trafficking, which especially targets children under the age of 18, takes place throughout the state.
“It is tragic that heinous crimes such as human trafficking even exist,” Neuhaus said. “Unfortunately, those who profit from human trafficking infect every corner of the state. It is our duty to remain vigilant and report suspected activities to law enforcement. Orange County is committed to raising public awareness about human trafficking and its victims, which are often young people.”
In 2016, the Safe Harbors Trafficking Resource Coordinator received 106 referrals from law enforcement and social services providers. The Resource Coordinator provided crisis services including but not limited to: Counseling, shelter, safety planning, basic needs, and accompaniment to service providers to 90 youth. Fifty-eight of them were identified as potential child sexual exploitation cases and 37 of those cases were referred to law enforcement.
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery,” Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler said. “What most people don’t understand is that it involves more than physical force, and often involves fraud, coercion, forced labor or sex. I encourage the public to learn more about human trafficking so that they can become additional eyes and ears for a local law enforcement if they suspect someone is being exploited.”
Orange County Social Services Commissioner Darcie Miller stated that “youth at-risk often have unstable family situations and have little or no social supports.” Runway and homeless youth, children involved with child protective services and foster care, as well as Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) youth, are also at increased risk for exploitation and trafficking.
According to the state Office of Children and Family Services, two types of Human Trafficking can be found in New York and in the United States. Sex trafficking, defined as profiting from prostitution by providing drugs, using false or misleading statements, withholding or destroying government documents, a pattern of coercive conduct, or other acts. The second is Labor Trafficking, defined as forcing or inducing a person to engage in labor, or recruiting, enticing, harboring or transporting another by providing drugs, withholding or destroying government documents, force, or a pattern of coercive conduct.
Through a grant from New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), Orange County DSS was awarded $442,000 from 2015 through 2018, including $102,000 this year, to create a Safe Harbor program designed to address trafficked and commercially exploited youth, Orange County County’s Safe Harbor Project is a County-wide, coordinated, multi-system, long-term strategy to enhance the identification, protection and service delivery for children who are victims of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, and to provide services to best meet their individual needs.
“Human trafficking is a horrible crime and a form of exploitation,” said Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier, Executive Director of Safe Homes of Orange County. We are grateful that County Executive Neuhaus recognizes and supports programming that educates the community and its partners about human trafficking, and for supporting victims. Through a collaborative effort, Orange County will continue to expose traffickers and their systems in our communities.”
Orange County is collaborating with Safe Homes of Orange County and Orange County Safe Harbor in January to raise money and awareness about human trafficking. The County will hold an employee dress down day, set for Friday, January 26th. Employees can donate $5 and wear casual clothes/or blue for the day. All funds raised will go to Safe Homes.
If you or someone you know may be the victim of trafficking, contact the confidential Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or Safe Homes of Orange County’s 24-hour crisis hotline at 845-562-5340. Help is also available by texting SAFE to 69866.