Human trafficking is a federal crime no one truly knows the range or scope of. It’s only been a federal crime for about 20 years.
Since the existence of Western District of New York Human Tracking Taskforce there have been hundreds of cases, mostly in Erie and Monroe Counties.
Over the past 10 years the International Institute in Buffalo has worked with about 1,200 victims, ranging from ages 9 to 81.
“There are many things that creates vulnerabilities for trafficking,” Amy Fleischauer with the International Institute said.
Human trafficking is categorized into either sex or labor trafficking.
People who have been trafficked for the purpose of labor exploitation are typically made to work in sectors such as agriculture, construction, entertainment, service industry, and manufacturing.
“Labor trafficking situations in Erie county have been construction sites, farms, convenience stores, hotels, or restaurants again the labor is being exploited, but there is also typically some type of sexually exploitation as well,” Fleischauer said.
According to Erie County Sheriff’s Office, in 2016 there were 96 trafficking cases reported in Western New York. More than half were sex trafficking cases.
Experts say cases are on the rise as more and more federal resources are being put towards curbing this type of crime. There are a lot of human trafficking red flags.
“More often the tips that we get from the community is really when people call us and say something is not right at this house or something is not right at this business. There's a lot of cars in and out of this business at odd hours or i think the employee is living where they are working. that's another significant red flag,” Fleischauer said.
If you know someone who’s a victim or you’re victim yourself, you are urged to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or Crime Stoppers at 716-867-6161.