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Hudson Valley News

HV Congressman Hosts Human Trafficking Forum

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WAMC, Allison Dunne
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A New York Congressman today hosted a forum on human trafficking, bringing together law enforcement, elected officials, and advocacy groups.

Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney hosted the Hudson Valley Human Trafficking Resources Forum to bring together a panel of law enforcement and community organizations, including representatives of the FBI, U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement Homeland Security investigations unit, and the state attorney general’s office. Here’s Maloney.

“What’s frightening is how many people may be exploited right now that we don’t know about,” says Maloney. “We know that the crime of human trafficking is dramatically underreported and most of it happens invisibly, behind closed doors. And that’s part of the work today, to bring it out in the open. And to remind people that this happens right here in our communities. We’ve seen it in Newburgh, in Poughkeepsie, places like Wappingers Falls, places like Newburgh and even in small villages like Pound Ridge in Westchester County. We are close to New York City and that’s part of it, but some of this is homegrown.”

Kathleen Murphy sat in the audience at the SUNY Orange Newburgh campus wanting to learn more to take back to her organization. She is executive director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Poughkeepsie.

“We consider this a form of child abuse, and I and my center are leading the county-wide study over in Dutchess County to explore child exploitation and human trafficking of children,” Murphy says. “We’re going to be coming out with a report; hopefully we’ll be done in about five months, and then from there we’re going to create a task force to combat this particular form of child abuse, and then we are going to, already starting in October we’re going to be starting community forums and community education programs to start teaching the community about this particular form of abuse of our kids.”

In July, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Maloney’s Human Trafficking Prevention Act, which would expand training procedures for high ranking Foreign Service officers and government personnel. Maloney describes what should follow in trying to curb human trafficking.

“What’s next is making sure that all the folks locally who are seeing this problem, who have a piece of this problem, are talking together and working together,” says Maloney. “And that’s why Senator Larkin and I are here so we can build off their efforts at the legislative level both at the state level and the federal level.”

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Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier is executive director of Safe Homes of Orange County in Newburgh. While she applauds Maloney’s legislation regarding training, she says such training needs to trickle down to the local level.

“I think the important part is that many of the victims that we’re seeing are accessing other portals of service that haven’t had the opportunity or the support or the funding to receive the appropriate training to identify red flags in a risk assessment to potentially pick up on the fact that the person in front of them is a trafficking victim,” says Kostyal-Larrier. “And we just really need to find support so that that becomes mandatory training for them as well.”

Republican State Senator Bill Larkin echoed the need for collaboration across the board.

“We’re looking at what the federal government is saying and what they’re passing on to us and what they’re looking for us to do because… we have the FBI, we have a lot of agencies, and we have our own investigative branches at the state level,” says Larkin. "And they all have to be working off of one sheet of music. This is a serious thing.”

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler was in attendance, as was Democratic Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.

“And we really have to make sure that the legislature, in the budget, that we make sure those line items are there to support women and young men who are in this horrible situation,” Gunther says.

Maureen Curtis is associate vice president of New York City-based Safe Horizon’s Criminal Justice Programs. She says that since 2001, when the anti-trafficking program began at Safe Horizon, there have been more than 600 trafficking victims. She says 60 percent of these victims were trafficked for labor, and 50 percent are men or boys. She underscored the need for resources for trafficking victims and addresses the following difference between human trafficking and human smuggling.

“You can get more, a higher conviction for smuggling, which is crossing a border, than for trafficking a human being,” Curtis says. “That, I think, says something about, as a society, how we look at this, and I think that’s something that needs to change.”

Democratic Orange County Legislator Shannon Wong helped with the forum. Other presenters included representatives from Catholic Charities, Westchester County-based My Sister’s Place, and ECPAT, a global network of organizations working for the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.

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