A new special court in Buffalo City Court holds the promise of rescuing some victims of human trafficking.
The Human Trafficking Intervention Part of City Court will identify and help prostitutes and other victims of human trafficking in a number of ways, not the least of which is getting out of a life that they did not choose, but rather had forced upon them.
The announcement of the court last week emphasized its intent to help victims become productive members of the community. The range of services being offered by the court include safe haven housing, education, health care, immigration assistance and job training. The court will first focus on victims of sex trafficking and later deal with labor trafficking.
It can be difficult to imagine something like human trafficking occurring right in our own backyard. But the reality is that it does happen.
Almost a year ago, The News reported on a trial involving forced prostitution in Buffalo’s suburbs. The federal court drama included testimony by two women and a girl who said that they were coerced and enticed into prostitution. They met as many as eight men a day. One of the three said she was only 15 years old when she began working for Kenneth Graham of Amherst. One of the other two was also under age when prosecutors say she started working for the same man.
Graham was convicted of three sex trafficking charges, one for each of the victims who testified against him. The sex trafficking operation was run out of several suburban hotels and motels from late 2010 until August 2012.
Often when we think about human trafficking, images of India, Thailand or Cambodia come to mind. But we can’t forget that it happens in America – whether it involves an immigrant here illegally and afraid of being deported, or a runaway or destitute person in desperate straits.
The continued focus should be on helping victims at the local, state and national levels. The Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act of 2013 is one such tool. Unfortunately, it has gotten stuck in committee.
It would improve state and national tracking of child sex trafficking and bring about reforms to better identify and assist the victims who, in the past, have sometimes been treated as criminals and have been arrested along with their pimps.
The proposed bill would encourage coordination between child welfare, juvenile justice and social service agencies and focus on placing children in stable housing.
Slavery is alive and well. And it’s going on right here. The Human Trafficking Intervention Part of City Court will add a tool to the battle against it.