DA Vance discusses partnerships to combat human trafficking at the Concordia Summit. Photo: Paul Morse
From sex traffickers making a business out of forced prostitution, to international corporations using forced labor to keep costs low, it is estimated that bad actors rake in more than $150 billion in illicit revenue annually as they exploit millions of people around the world.
At the District Attorney’s Office, our expertise in data analysis – including financial transactions, phone records, online ads, and other electronic evidence – enables us to investigate sex trafficking not only as a sex crime, but as a business crime as well. Although sex trafficking cases can be complex, our Office secures major convictions through this intelligence-driven approach.
Last month, we announced the conviction and sentencing of a sex trafficker to 12 ½-to-25 years in state prison for operating a prostitution ring around Super Bowl weekend, and trafficking a 15-year-old girl. The defendant in that case posted ads with his victims’ photos to the classified ads site Backpage.com. Within weeks of his case being resolved, a separate sex trafficker wasconvicted for forcibly trafficking two young women into a violent sex trafficking operation that he ran from his New Jersey home. That defendant recruited victims using text messages and social media.
Harnessing digital evidence will only get us so far. To protect more survivors of human trafficking, we need to build stronger public-private partnerships, and we need our State legislators to strengthen our criminal laws.
Partnerships to Combat Trafficking
Police and prosecutors cannot combat human trafficking on our own. We also need private companies to step up to the plate. This week, I published an op-ed with Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, calling on the world’s largest corporations to formally commit to eradicating forced labor in their supply chains. And I am honored to serve as a judge for the Foundation’s “Stop Slavery Award,” which honors companies that go above and beyond to ensure that their suppliers are not exploiting workers or profiting from forced labor.
Strengthening our Laws
In the trafficking business, youthful looks are in high demand and actual children command top dollar. But when it comes to protecting the youngest victims of trafficking, New York’s laws lag behind those of our federal partners and 46 other states across the country.
Last month, I voiced support for legislation introduced by New York State Senator Amy Paulin that would eliminate the need to prove that a child was forced into prostitution in order to convict his or her trafficker. This common-sense legislation reflects the same understanding as our long-standing statutory rape laws: children do not have the legal, emotional, or psychological capacity to consent to sexual activity with adults. That should not change just because there is an exchange of money.
I pledge to continue advocating for these survivors, and to leverage our office’s unique resources and partnerships to combat human trafficking in all its forms.
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.
Manhattan District Attorney