Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a bill introduced by state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) aimed at helping to curb the scourge of human trafficking in New York.
Queens has gained the dubious distinction of being recognized as a hub for the human trafficking industry, and law enforcement officials have brought down a number of human traffickers and sex trafficking rings in recent years.
The new law serves to coordinate such efforts by state and local law enforcement with the expertise and on-the-ground experience of nonprofits and other groups working to stop the illegal trade of humans for purposes of prostitution, forced labor and other forms of slavery.
It will compel the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking, formed in 2007 as a temporary entity, to continue to work to stop human trafficking — a travesty that until 2007 was not even a specific crime, Meng said — inform the public and combine resources in that fight.
“A lot of agencies deal with this issue, but they’re not communicating as well as they could be. One agency may have information that may help another agency, so we think that it’s important that the agencies be able to get together periodically to share information and tactics with each other,” Meng said. “Queens is such a diverse community. We have immigrants from all different areas, so it’s a real hotbed for this problem.”
Under the new law, agencies such as state and local police departments, the state Department of Labor, the state Division of Criminal Justices and others will meet periodically with each other and with non-governmental groups, create tactical plans every two years and share information and strategies with one another and with the general public in the form of seminars and discussions.
A recent report by the U.S. Department of State on efforts to combat human trafficking globally indicated that for the first time the United States has been included on the list of high-priority countries. The State Department said about 20,000 people are trafficked into the United States and that New York state has the fourth-most occurrences of human trafficking in the nation, following California, Florida and Texas.
Meng added that the education aspects of the law will also serve to help stop what she describes as the “modern-day slavery” called human trafficking.
“It’s also to really help average people like you and me detect people who may be victims of human trafficking. We want to educate the community,” she said. “Hopefully, this will shed some more light on this terrible situation.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2011 Community News Group
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