WXXI AM News

Rochester coalition starts campaign to educate community about human trafficking

Jan 11, 2017

Credit freeimages.com/Lance Kidwell

A coalition of local agencies and faith-based groups dedicated to eliminating human trafficking hopes to raise awareness of the problem in Rochester.

"Rochesterians need to understand that this is not an issue there is over there and not in my community. It's here," said Hannah Del Murphy, a founding member of the Rochester Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

It's not clear just how prevalent sex or labor trafficking is locally.

One reason it's not known how many victims there are is that the crime may be difficult to detect. Sometimes the trafficker is mistaken for a boyfriend. Sometimes it's a family member or close friend who is doing the exploiting.  Del Murphy says there are signs that may provide clues about who is being victimized.

"Someone who maybe has suddenly an older person in their life; they're going out more and they're more active, but they're not active within their normal circle."

Del Murphy says the coalition will know if its education campaign is working because the community will become proactive.

"When we start to get more hotels that reach out to us to say, 'Can you come and educate our staff? We will look out for the signs of human trafficking that is happening in our hotels,' because that's where a lot of trafficking is happening."

Last year, New York State enacted tougher penalties against human trafficking and more provisions to help the victims. 

Del Murphy is encouraged that the website Backpage.com, a classifieds website that allows users to post escort ads, suspended its adult ads section last week in the U.S.

The move came shortly after the release of a scathing U.S. Senate report that called the website the "largest commercial sex services advertising platform in the United States" and said that "Backpage officials have publicly acknowledged that criminals use the website for sex trafficking, including trafficking of minors."