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January Is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

New York is one of five states with the highest number of documented cases of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, a crime against humanity: the world’s second largest criminal industry in 2014, second only to drug trafficking.

The Global Slavery Index, the flagship report of the Walk Free Foundation, estimates 35.8 million people are held in modern slavery across 167 nations.  According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise worldwide, generating between $32 and $150 billion in illegal profits annually.

Lima James is a part-time lecturer at SUNY Albany and also the education training coordinator at not-for-profit LifeWay Network, which works with the global movement against human trafficking.   "Men women and children are victims of human trafficking, sexual slavery, this can be through commercial sex, prostitution; it happens in massage parlors and its right in plain sight and people just don't know. It's labor trafficking, domestic servitude, farmwork, construction and then there's also debt bondage, exploiting a victim due to debt. A victim of smuggling can become a victim of human trafficking."

James says it’s estimated as many as 300,000 minors  as young as 12 years old are at risk of being trafficked in the U.S.  

LifeWay Network has been confronting human trafficking since 2007 by offering education to the general public to raise awareness; and by providing safe housing, since 2009, for women who have been trafficked.

Joan Dawber, Executive Director of  LifeWay Network, confronts human trafficking by offering safe housing and education.   "We are actually one of only two organizations in the New York metro area providing safe housing for women survivors of human trafficking. The education program raises awareness in the community through workshops and presentations and conferences, and it also is a way of learning about the signs and the red flags of trafficking and being able to identify potential situations."

Lima James is concerned about those at highest risk of becoming victims: runaways and homeless individuals. There are things the average person can do to detect, deter or reported suspected trafficking cases.  "Learn about human trafficking. Read about it. Go online. Read an article, watch a documentary, whatever it is, just be able to identify some red flags and signs so that you're aware of what to look out for. If someone does see something, they can always call the National Human Trafficking Hotline - 888-373-7888 and they can call for information or even text for information.”

Learn more at www.lifewaynetwork.org: also on Facebook  (https://www.facebook.com/LifeWayNetwork)

The Massachusetts Medical Society has published a guidebook for healthcare providers on how to identify, assess and respond to victims of human trafficking.  Click here for the guidebook.

Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson of the School of Social Welfare at UAlbany, which held an October 2013 Conference on Human Trafficking that spurred actions at the college.  "...which included a group of students putting together a syllabus that is actually a precursor for a course that we'll be teaching this coming summer. It'll be open not only to our own students but to others who are interested in social work and addressing human trafficking. The course itself is very comprehensive, probably one of the best you'll see in the country at this time. The goal obviously is for all of us to be much more conscious of the risk factors that lead some to be trafficked."

Discussions are also underway with University Police in the interests of protecting students from becoming entangled in trafficking.   "I got a tip that this is an increasing problem on a number of campuses where students who have financial challenges often are recruited to help out elsewhere and they find that they're then inducted in human trafficking activity, so I think even as a University, we need to be mindful that none of us are immune."

The elective course on human trafficking will be offered through SUNY Albany School of Social Welfare this Summer.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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