Today is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Day. Albany County officials are marking the day with the launch of a county webpage dedicated to raising awareness and helping victims.
According to the Albany County Executive Dan McCoy's office, estimates show that one out of every seven endangered runaways reported in 2017 were likely victims of child sex trafficking. Spokesperson Mary Rozak: "The county executive has two daughters and he has said that it's very personal when you think about the prevalence of sexual exploitation and he wants to ensure that that those who perpetrate these crimes are brought to justice. And at the same time that the public is better educated on about the dangers and the sexual exploitation and also to let victims know that there are services that are offered to help them recover and heal."
Albany County Department of Children, Youth and Families Commissioner Gail Geohagen-Pratt says the average age of initial trafficking of a victim is 13. Eighty percent of those identified are female and more than half are children, though the issue affects all ages, genders and sexual orientations. "The significance of this is just continuing to bring public awareness in regard to the concerns regarding human trafficking, that it's something that there is not always a full grasp of the seriousness of it. People are impacted worldwide including here in the United States, and in particular in New York where we rank fifth in terms of the states in terms of the incidence of human trafficking and that it impacts so many that you know, from our young people and older people, and really just being able to bring some awareness to that in terms of educating people on the concerns and then what folks might be able to do to help."
Rozak says the Albany County Safe Harbour Program seeks to raise public awareness and offer victims support. "The Safe Harbour program is the program, and it has a new website page: www. Albany county.com - you go to government and department for children youth and families, and the Safe Harbor program is listed. It is a place that folks can find out more about what the needs are for food, for shelter, for clothing, for counseling and how to get help. The program is is funded through New York State Office of Children and Family Services and it is a program that is is being highlighted on this day in particular on January 11th and then highlighted across the country."
Rozak says there are two ways to help. "Wear any color of blue. Any color of blue to show support to those who have been victimized, who have been victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation or slavery. Number two you can go to our website. You can make a donation of any of the items needed. There are lists of those, socks, underwear and hairbrushes, things that can be dropped off at the Children's Advocacy Center at 260 South Pearl Street to help those who truly need our help."
Estimates from Polaris Project project indicate there are hundreds of thousands of individuals who have been victimized throughout the United States.
Those wishing to make donations can drop off items such as socks, underwear, hairbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, hand sanitizer, portable phone chargers, bottled water and trail mix, among others, at the Children’s Advocacy Center, 260 South Pearl Street, Albany, NY. Albany County staff is also available to pick up items and you can call (518) 447-4938 to set up a time. If you are concerned about someone who is at risk or potentially a victim, you are encouraged to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
1 (888) 373-7888SMS: 233733 (Text "HELP" or "INFO")Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a weekLanguages: English, Spanish and 200 more languages
See the below link for the full list of items being collected locally: