By Bill Parry
The NYPD will expand its resources to combat sex trafficking, Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced last week.
The citywide Vice Enforcement Unit has been restructured, including the addition of 25 more detectives. Officers will be trained to better identify the warning signs of trafficking and a new dedicated hotline has been created that will allow victims and those who suspect a friend or loved one is being trafficked to call and report a crime.
“Assigning additional detectives, creating a dedicated tip line, and providing additional training for police officers in patrol will help the department combat human trafficking in and around New York City,” O’Neill said.
The NYPD is also placing a greater emphasis on pimps and johns to develop more long-term cases against those who buy and sell people for sex. Human trafficking occurs when one person is exploited for the personal or financial gain of another.
First lady Chirlane McCray joined the commissioner to announce the new NYPD trafficking hotline at 646-610-7272.
“New Yorkers care for their neighbors. We do not stand by in silence when we see people are hurting,” McCray said. “That is why we are introducing a new hotline today and increasing the number of specially trained officers to address trafficking. This strategic capability along with the expanded number of professionals will help get resources to young girls and other victims while bringing justice to their traffickers.”
Though there is no single factor that defines trafficking victims, traffickers often target people living in poverty or otherwise lack adequate support systems. Gender-based discrimination, including gender-based violence and disparities in access to education and employment, place women, girls, and gender non-conforming people at heightened vulnerability to trafficking.
In Queens, sex trafficking has long been a problem along Roosevelt Avenue in Corona and Jackson Heights.
“Victims in my community, who frequently are undocumented women and/or transgender individuals, are being abused for someone else’s profit,” City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) said. “We must protect them from violent and cruel treatment. By adding this hotline and deploying specially trained officers to combat sex trafficking, we are taking a crucial step towards ending this shameful practice. I applaud the administration for focusing the NYPD’s resources into protecting our most vulnerable New Yorkers. This investment will not only protect lives but will keep our communities healthier and safer.”
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world, second only to drug trafficking. The United States remains the second highest destination for trafficked women, and New York City is one of the top points of entry as well as the final destination for many victims.
Sex trafficking is one of the most hidden crimes, which makes it difficult to know exactly how many people are trafficked into the country or domestically being sexually exploited. State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), the chairman of the Social Services Committee, is supporting the NYPD’s new crackdown.
“These resources, dedicated to educating, preventing, and helping victims of trafficking and their families, will be instrumental in combating these atrocious crimes,” Hevesi said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr