ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — New resources are available to New Yorkers aiming to help combat human trafficking and raise awareness.
The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and state Division of Criminal Justice Service have announced a pair of online resources hoping to facilitate human trafficking referrals to the state.
The resources published on May 24 include a new digital handbook to assist service providers and victim advocates with completing referrals and an eReporting system that allows referrers and law enforcement to submit reports electronically.
“Service providers and advocates can often be the first point of contact for victims of human trafficking, so it’s important that they recognize the nuances of this crime and how to properly refer these cases,” said OTDA Commissioner Mike Hein. “By raising awareness of the referral process and making it more accessible, we can effectively help a greater number of these victims access a wide breadth of vital assistance that can help them become self-sufficient.”
The handbook, published on the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s website, Human Trafficking: A Handbook for Social Service Providers and Victim Advocates, comprehensively addresses the crime. It includes how to identify and screen victims, how to provide trauma-informed care and how to navigate the state’s referral process.
Additionally, the eReporting system allows law enforcement and legal or social service providers to electronically submit cases to New York’s victim referral process. Previously, the only method to submit a referral was through fax.
“The eReporting tool is helping to streamline the reporting system and will better position providers to identify human trafficking,” said DJC Executive Deputy Commissioner and Co-Chairman of the Task Force Michael C. Green. “I’m proud of DCJS staff and the work they do every day to help train law enforcement so they can recognize and put a stop to human trafficking and hold perpetrators of this crime accountable. I am proud of the work we do with OTDA and our other partners through the Task Force to raise awareness, hold offenders accountable and protect and assist trafficking victims.”
According to the OTDA has resulted in 112 referrals, accounting for 80% of all referrals so far in 2021. Fax referrals are continuing to be accepted but are expected to be phased out by 2022.
The Office also reported that during the COVID-19 pandemic, human trafficking referrals followed the trends of recent years and continued to increase in 2020, with a total of 338 cases referred to the state. These cases were spread throughout the state, with 115 in New York City, 60 in the Long Island and lower Hudson Valley regions, and 126 in Upstate.
Those who believe they may be a victim or a witness to human trafficking is encouraged to call the Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” to 233733 (BeFree).