A couple weeks ago I posted some statistics about sex trafficking in the United States. Now it’s time to get a little more personal about Western New York. It’s easy to believe that people, especially teenagers and children, are trafficked and forced into prostitution in far away places like India or China. It’s much more difficult for us to wrap our minds around it happening over at the Galleria, Eastern Hills, or Boulevard Malls.
Elizabeth Feldes is a deputy with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department and has spent 30 years trying to end trafficking. I encourage you to read this article from May in which she is quoted many times, about the issues of human trafficking in Western New York. If you want some of the highlights, here are a few key quotes:
- “It’s estimated that worldwide, as many as 27 million people a year are victims of human trafficking, though Fildes said the number is likely higher. Locally, she said, law enforcement officers rescued more than 400 victims in the past five years.”
- “According to Fildes, much of the success locally in rescuing victims can be attributed to multiple organizations that are collaborating on efforts to eradicate trafficking. There are more than a dozen organizations dedicated to fighting the crime, including the International Institute of Buffalo, Stop Trafficking of People (S.T.O.P.) and People Against Trafficking Humans (PATH). Most are working in conjunction with the Western New York Human Trafficking Task Force and Alliance, of which Fildes is director.”
- “Like Fildes, Brauer Ruchala said one of the biggest obstacles is the way victims are viewed by both the public and law enforcement. “Too often, these girls are called prostitutes. People need to realize that this isn’t a prostitute, this is a child who was trafficked,” she said.”
- “Statistically, the illegal sex trade is the second-largest moneymaker in the world, behind drug trafficking,”
- “The Safe Harbor Act… ensures that youths working in sex trades will no longer be prosecuted as criminals. Instead they will be given support and services to assist them in breaking free of what often becomes a vicious cycle. Still, Fildes said there is a gross shortage of services at the state and national levels. ‘We looked at one study that showed there are only 115 beds available nationally,'”
Read the rest of the article here and pray for those who are helping stop the sex trade here in WNY! Join me also in praying for the teenagers who each day find themselves at risk for being lured into this dreadful situation.