Queens has been a hotbed of human trafficking for generations due to its two airports and proximity to the I-95 corridor.
On Thursday, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation crafted by two Queens lawmakers that will require law enforcement, including the city’s five district attorney’s offices, to advise human trafficking victims of the availability of social and legal services that are available to them.
“Human trafficking is a global epidemic and we must do all we can to end these horrible crimes here in New York,” Hochul said. “It is not enough to just put laws in place to prevent trafficking; we must prioritize supporting survivors and ensure they have the legal and social service’s resources they need to recover from such a tragic experience.”
Upon encountering a person who reasonably appears to be or says they are a victim of human trafficking, law enforcement personnel must advise the survivor of the availability of resources.
The agency will offer to connect the victim with the appropriate provider unless the individual declines the services.
“The time it takes a survivor of human trafficking to be connected to essential resources, whether it be mental health support, housing, or healthcare can make all the difference,” state Senator Jessica Ramos said. “S924 ensures that law enforcement and district attorneys must prioritize a person’s immediate needs, and connect them with someone who speaks their language and is primarily concerned with their wellbeing. The kind of holistic intake envisioned by Assembly member Hevesi and my bill moves best practices towards a focus of care and safety, instead of potentially deepening the trauma and fear for survivors.”
While New York state has enacted a number of important measures to assist human trafficking survivors — such as the START Act, signed last month, that strengthened protections for victims of trafficking — this bill takes that one step further connecting survivors with critical resources and language support.
“I am extremely proud that this legislation, which passed the Senate and Assembly unanimously, was signed into law,” Hevesi said. “Connecting survivors of human trafficking to appropriate social and legal services as soon as possible is crucial.”