NDNY launches human trafficking task force with local, federal, and state law enforcement partners
ALBANY, NEW YORK - Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon announced today that her office, together with federal, state, and local law enforcement, has launched a law enforcement task force focused on combating human trafficking.
The task force is comprised of members from the United States Attorney’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Homeland Security Investigations; Drug Enforcement Administration; New York State Police; the Police Departments of Albany, Colonie, Rotterdam, Schenectady, Troy; Sherriff’s Offices of the Counties Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, and Ulster; Rensselaer County Probation Department; and the Offices of the District Attorneys of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga Counties. The United States Attorney’s Office plans to expand the task force to cover all 32 counties it serves.
This week, the United States Attorney’s Office hosted a virtual training for members of the task force. National experts from the Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking Prosecutions Unit lectured on the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, coercion-based sex trafficking and forced labor, trauma informed interviewing, and proactive strategies to detect trafficking crimes.
Acting U.S. Attorney Bacon said, “Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Ruthless traffickers use force, lies, threats, coercion, and sometimes even drugs, to force victims into a life of commercial sex or tedious labor. Victims are trapped; and they need our help to reclaim their freedom. We launched this task force, during the 10th Annual National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, to enhance law enforcement’s ability to dismantle human trafficking networks and to help restore victims’ lives.”
“Human trafficking is an incredibly dangerous crime and its impact on victims is immeasurable," stated Thomas Relford, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albany Field Office. "That’s why it's not enough to simply identify the violation, we must work together to prevent exploitation. Having a dedicated task force with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to address these issues here at home provides us more resources to identify, investigate, and arrest any perpetrator of this horrific activity.”
“Human trafficking is an egregious crime that dehumanizes its victims,” said Kevin Kelly, HSI Special Agent in Charge. “Through this task force, HSI is committing to work collaboratively in a victim-centered approach to investigate these heinous crimes and bring to justice those who prey on the most vulnerable in our communities.”
“There is an intrinsic relationship between human traffickers and drug-related crime,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Zon. “This training cements a law enforcement partnership focused on investigating and bringing to justice those responsible for crimes associated with human trafficking. I applaud the Northern District of New York for their focus and leadership in this Task Force.”
New York State Police Acting Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “As law enforcement, any tool or additional working group we can be a part of, in order to fight and prevent a crime, is a welcome one. Human trafficking is a complex crime, and any person, regardless of race, sexuality or gender can be a victim. We will continue to work with all of our partners to make sure human traffickers are put in prison, and their victims get the help they need.”
Albany County District Attorney David Soares said, “Human Trafficking is a global issue and it will only improve our response to unify beyond the borders of our respective jurisdictions and work together to detect and combat this issue on all fronts. Recognizing that a strong and widespread law enforcement response to these types of crimes will effectuate the greatest change in the life of the individual victim as well as the larger community, my office is grateful to be included in this regional taskforce."
Rensselaer County District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly said, “We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the United States Attorney’s Office and other agencies as I believe a multi-agency approach is most effective. This is an opportunity to share knowledge and resources in order to combat human trafficking, prosecute those involved and assist those affected.”
Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen said, “The Saratoga District Attorney’s Office is pleased to join with the other Task Force members in a coordinated and collaborative effort to combat the devastating impact of human trafficking in our region. Our office is committed to hold offenders of trafficking accountable for their criminal conduct by working with our Task Force partners.”
Rensselaer County Sheriff Patrick Russo said, “I applaud the U.S. Attorney’s Office for taking this initiative and we will assist in any way we are able.”
Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa said, “I want to express my appreciation to the US Attorney's Office for recognizing the need for a Human Trafficking Task Force. We realize there is a need to combat this issue not only in Ulster County but throughout New York State. Human trafficking involves our immigrant communities who are vulnerable to the illegal sex trade and unfair labor practices. The Ulster County Sheriff's Office is PROUD to have a member participate in a collaborative effort to help combat human trafficking."
“Human trafficking can occur in any community and those victimized may be reluctant to come forward,” said Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins. “This newly launched task force will allow for law enforcement partners at all levels of government to collaboratively investigate incidents of human trafficking and bring offenders to justice. In addition, the task force will help to raise awareness about human trafficking in our communities while empowering and assisting victims. I commend Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon for her leadership in launching this task force and look forward to its success.”
“Having multiple agencies on the task force will increase its ability to investigate these crimes and result in more victims rescued and suspects apprehended,” said Colonie Police Chief Jonathan Teale.
Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford said, “The Schenectady Police Department is proud to partner with the United States Attorney’s Office and our local partners to combat human trafficking. I would like to thank Acting U.S. Attorney Bacon for leading this effort in the Northern District of New York and look forward to working with our community partners to bring attention to human trafficking and combat it in our city.”
Laura Bauer, Director, Rensselaer County Department of Probation said, “Rensselaer County Probation is looking forward to working with all involved with this valuable collaborative to combat human trafficking. Probation Officers recognize the devastating effect human trafficking has on victims, who are at times discovered to be the youth and adults with whom we work.”
The United States Attorney’s Office and its partners encourage the community to join in our efforts by staying alert for signs of trafficking, including:
- Is the person in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or, someone who seems to be in control of the situation, for example where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
- Does the person lack personal items and appear not to have a stable living situation?
- Does the person have freedom of movement? Can he or she leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
- Does the person seem preoccupied with his or her cellphone or internet-capable devices?
- Does the person have items, for example clothing, shoes, accessories, electronics, that he or she should not be able to afford?
- Is the child missing school or missing parts of the school day without explanation?
If you or someone you know is being trafficked, contact local law enforcement or report it to federal law enforcement through the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or 1-866-347-2423.