As the global problem of human trafficking continues to grow, local law enforcement in Buffalo is one of the leaders in the nation when it comes to dealing with the issue.
A key part of that success come from the Western District of New Human Trafficking Task Force, a group of several law enforcement agencies that work to identify possible cases of human trafficking with consequent prosecution.
There are two main types of human trafficking: forced labor and commercial sex.
According the Buffalo Field Office for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), SAC Buffalo had approximately 86 arrests, 32 indictments and 33 convictions. Nationwide, the problem of human trafficking cases has grown nearly 6 times over what it was in 2010, according to HSI. SAC Buffalo is also responsible for areas including Syracuse, Albany, Massena and Rouse Point.
The task force also works with local agencies to provide help to prostitutes who are victims of human trafficking. Officials say sex traffickers exploit men, women and child victims through the use of force, fraud or coercion.
Drugs, like heroin, have also become important tools in controlling and manipulating individuals.
Authorities warn that sex-traffickers are constantly looking for new victims by trolling social media searching for vulnerable individuals. "Especially youth that have chronic homelessness or running away," said Amy Fleischauer, director of victim services for the International Institute of Buffalo.
The institute actively works to try and help victims of sex-trade or human trafficking by providing safe housing and counseling. Fleischauer advises there are some warning signs to watch out for such as expensive gifts with no explanation, or much older boy or girlfriends.
Buffalo City Court is also one of the limited areas in New York State that has a Human Trafficking Court where people arrested for prostitution are investigated to see if they are victims of human trafficking.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
January 2016 is designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Month and the Department of Homeland Security is asking the public to report suspected cases of human trafficking by calling 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or online at www.ice.gov
The International Institute of Buffalo can be reached for assistance and information at 883-1900
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