Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Amy Paulin today announced passage of legislation to protect victims of human trafficking, and to bring perpetrators of sex trafficking of a child to justice.
"Human trafficking is a scourge that continues to plague our communities. Today's legislation will help make sure that those who exploit children in this heinous way are brought to justice," Speaker Heastie said. "The Assembly Majority has a long history to prevent human trafficking and sex trafficking, and we will continue to craft legislation to protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes."
"Today we are holding those that enslave and exploit children through the commercial sex trade accountable while protecting victims who are teenagers or even younger," Assemblymember Paulin said. "With these bills, we'll take the final step to help these young girls and boys escape their lives of abuse and exploitation at the hands of their predatory traffickers."
"Human trafficking is an urban problem, a suburban problem, a rural problem and it is especially a problem for our children," Codes Committee Chair Joseph R. Lentol said. "Today's legislation will hold traffickers accountable and help protect our youngest and most vulnerable population."
Legislation that was passed today would eliminate the requirement for proof of force, fraud or coercion in order to find a person guilty of the class B violent felony of sex trafficking of a minor (A.6823-C, Paulin). This change would bring state law in line with federal sex trafficking laws. The bill would also protect victims of trafficking who are then compelled to aid in the trafficking of other minors.
A defendant convicted under this legislation would face a determinate sentence in state prison of up to 25 years. Currently under NYS law, a person who promotes the prostitution of a child is guilty of a class C felony. In order to be convicted of the higher charge of class B sex trafficking, the prosecution currently must show that the defendant used force, coercion or certain other unlawful conduct as a part of the scheme.
Human trafficking networks often rely on legitimate businesses like hotels to house victims while in transit or for the purchase and sale of victims' forced services. The Assembly today also passed legislation that would require lodging facilities to provide information concerning services for human trafficking to victims (A.10425-A, Paulin).
Many human traffickers are reliant on public transportation to move their victims. Another bill passed today would require all public facing transportation employees to complete a human trafficking recognition training program (A.10869, Hunter). This kind of training would raise awareness of human trafficking and save lives.
"Human trafficking is a hidden crime, and often, the victims are hidden and transported in plain sight," Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter said. "I'm proud that my bill will help raise awareness, and teach those most likely to encounter victims of human trafficking, how to identify and approach potential victims."
"Combating the scourge of human trafficking in New York and across the globe is a daunting task, and we must remain vigilant in our efforts to eradicate it," Social Services Committee Chair Andrew Hevesi said. "We are always working to re-evaluate the services available to address the needs of victims, and ensure they have the tools and resources necessary to rebuild their lives."
Last week, the Assembly passed legislation to require the establishment and expansion of culturally competent short-term and long-term safe house residential facilities and services operated by not-for-profit organizations for victims of human trafficking (A.9566, Hevesi). The Senate took up and passed the legislation yesterday.
Included in a package of legislation the Assembly passed earlier this session were four bills to bring awareness to human trafficking and support victims. Too often, victims of sexual exploitation are treated as criminals and charged with crimes like loitering or prostitution. One bill would ensure that victims of sex trafficking would not be required to provide samples to be included in the state criminal DNA identification database (A.1030, Paulin). Another measure would address the need for sex trafficking victims to secure placement in short-term and long-term housing by ensuring prompt eligibility (A.3223-A, Lentol). These residences offer much needed services, such as counseling, that often help survivors transition back into the community.
Human trafficking is a hidden crime, and the first step to combating it is to identify victims so they can be rescued and help bring their perpetrators to justice. It is a well-known fact that trafficking networks often rely on legitimate businesses, such as hotels, to sustain their illegal operations.
In an effort to train individuals to better recognize sex trafficking, the package included a measure that would establish uniform human trafficking recognition training programs and require all employees at commercial casino gaming facilities to undergo such training (A.7034, Titone). Another piece of legislation would mandate every lodging facility to ensure that any employee that is likely to interact with guests undergoes a human trafficking recognition program (A.6834-B, Paulin).