Niagara Gazette — According to information from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, at least 12 victims of human sex trafficking have been rescued over the past year.
But the problems here in Buffalo and Niagara Falls are much bigger than the numbers indicate according to Amy Fleischauer, director of victim services at the International Institute of Buffalo and others who claim that the area is a magnet for traffickers.
In addition to the billboards, signs and posters are going up in shelters, hospitals and anyplace where victims might see them and reach out for help.
But, besides awareness, Buffalo has also launched an entire new law enforcement approach which includes a special Court set up to address the sex trafficking aspect of the problem.
The Buffalo Human Trafficking Intervention Part of City Court was “created to identify and help prostitutes and other victims of human trafficking escape a life of exploitation and violence and become productive members of the community, according to court officials.
Prostitution and related offenses will be handled by the special court to help victims of sex trafficking, who “are recruited into the commercial sex industry by force, fraud or coercion, and will attempt to provide victims of sex trafficking with assistance designed to provide them with alternatives to prostitution.”
As Ms. Fleischauer points out, not all of the victims come from the sex trade; they come here from 16 different countries, including China, Thailand, Kenya and Peru and from the United States as well.
Many land here because, as one official puts it, “We have all the red flags.”
Our position as a cross-border community makes us “a popular way station for traffickers moving victims from Canada to the U.S.”
She says our relatively large transient population and our unusual combination of large urban centers and vast rural areas provides opportunities for traffickers involved in sexual and labor exploitation to take advantage of the situation.
Sounds totally familiar to me; our rich history as a region deeply engaged in the pre Civil War Underground Railroad, abolitionism and Civil Rights is clearly repeating itself…
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