Modified: October 11, 2016 1:43pm
Federal Grant Aids in Public Awareness Campaign
Buffalo, NY – Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard was joined by a representative from the United States Attorney’s Office, Acting District Attorney Michael Flaherty and task force members to unveil to the public new human trafficking public service announcements (PSAs).
As part of a human trafficking grant, $20,000 was earmarked for the production of two human trafficking awareness announcements. The ads are designed to raise the awareness of human trafficking in the region and tell victims the task force can assist them.
Sheriff Timothy Howard stated, “I am very pleased that we in the law enforcement community are expanding our efforts to investigate and prosecute human trafficking incidents and equally happy to be part of the PSAs to raise awareness of human trafficking and to especially let victims know my office can help them.”
The PSAs were written and produced locally for the Western District of New York Human Trafficking Task Force and will initially be internet based announcements followed television broadcasting throughout the Western New York region.
Two different PSAs were produced for distribution; one discusses the commercial sex trade aspect of human trafficking and the other highlights how traffickers coerce victims to perform labor or services.
“For too long the plight of victims of human and labor trafficking has gone unnoticed, even though it occurs right in front of us, “ said acting Erie County District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty, Jr. “I am so proud to collaborate with my law enforcement partners to help these victims and prosecute their abusers. Thank you Sheriff Howard and the members of the Human Trafficking Task Force for their efforts to educate the public and give hope to the victims.”
Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to lure victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Traffickers seek individuals who are emotionally and psychologically vulnerable, face economic hardships or victims of natural disasters or political unrest. In 2015, over 110 incidents involving 149 victims of human trafficking within the region were reported to the task force, resulting in arrests and convictions.
Sheriff Howard added, “We believe there are more victims of human trafficking than what has been reported because it is most likely that victims didn’t know where to turn for help. We believe these PSAs will reach victims and show them there is an escape from their imprisonment.”
The task force has teamed with the Greater Buffalo Metropolitan Crime Stoppers to utilize its tip line to report illegal human trafficking activities. All calls are anonymous and people can call 716.867.6161.
The Human Trafficking PSA can be seen here.
The Labor Trafficking PSA can be seen here.