PUBLIC SAFETY: The growing scourge of human trafficking will become more pronounced around the Super Bowl, warn state officials who today announced the launch of a round-the-clock tips hotline staffed by experienced detectives.
At the same time, acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman pointed to two new billboards outside MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford that are promoting the state’s anti-trafficking/anti-demand campaign.
Authorities say the Super Bowl each year is a magnet for prostitution — often through human trafficking.
New Jersey is already a hub for modern-day imprisonment and slavery because of its proximity to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. It’s also the most densely populated state and has the third-highest percentage of foreign-born legal residents, at nearly 20%.
Those exploited — men, women and children — often are used for prostitution and pornography, as well as forced labor. Traffickers control their victims by direct abuse, fraud or coercion — including threatening to hurt their loved ones back home.
For that reason, New Jersey lawmakers adopted — and Gov. Christie earlier this year signed into law — a measure that tightened the state’s human trafficking laws.
It boosts penalties for those who fail to verify that advertisers on their websites aren’t minors, while establishing “john schools” to educate patrons of prostitutes about the industry’s exploitation of women and minors. The law also allows judges to acquit those convicted of related offenses when it’s show that traffickers forced them courts to commit the crimes. It applies not just to prostitution but also to other forms of forced labor.
The new hotline – 1-855-END-NJ-HT ( 1-855-363-6548 ) – is being staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by detectives in the DCJ’s Human Trafficking Unit, officials said.
“We hope that public vigilance will lead to referrals to the new hotline, which will in turn lead to additional investigations and prosecutions,” Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig said.
Honig said authorities have reason to believe it will: Calls to the DCJ spiked in July following the arrests of a Lakewood man and four accomplices charged with operating a network of brothels that trafficked women from Mexico to work as prostitutes.
The New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force, under the direction of Assistant Attorney General Tracy M. Thompson, “trains and assists law enforcement in methods of identifying victims and signs of trafficking in order to disrupt and interdict this activity, coordinates statewide efforts in the identification and provision of services to victims of human trafficking and increases the successful interdiction and prosecution of trafficking of humans,” state authorities said in a news release.
The task force is hosting a Victim/Survivor Awareness Summit on Oct. 25 in Trenton to “debunk common myths and raise awareness about human trafficking victims and survivors,” the DCJ said. “The program will also address their needs, issues and concerns, and highlight the effective way to resolve them.”
PHOTO: Courtesy The Bells of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor