NJ To Step Up Efforts To Fight Human Trafficking

TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa today issued a new statewide law enforcement directive to increase investigations and prosecutions of sex- and labor-related human trafficking crimes in New Jersey, identify and rescue human trafficking victims, provide comprehensive services to victims, and train police to recognize telltale indicators of human trafficking when investigating other offenses.

Chiesa also announced the formation of a Human Trafficking Unit within the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, adding a lieutenant, a sergeant and a detective to work with the deputy attorney general and detective already assigned to those crimes. Additional staff will be assigned as needed. The Human Trafficking Unit will increase the capability of the Division of Criminal Justice to perform proactive, long-term sex and labor trafficking investigations in coordination with local, county, state and federal partners. It will also lead efforts to train law enforcement, monitor such cases, and provide services to victims of human trafficking.

“As a federal prosecutor, I oversaw cases of human trafficking and learned firsthand why it is called modern-day slavery,” said Chiesa. “Human traffickers take those who are most vulnerable – whether because of their youth, immigration status, or lack of a network of family or community support – and steal their freedom, subjecting them to forced prostitution or labor. These victims of exploitation, degradation and torture are often hidden in the unlighted corners of our society. We intend to find them, help them and prosecute those responsible for enslaving them.”

New Jersey is a prime location for domestic and international human trafficking because of its central location between the New York metropolitan area and the tri-state metropolitan region of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. It is the most densely populated state in the U.S. and has the third highest proportion of foreign born residents at nearly 20 percent. In addition to the high immigrant population in the dense northeast quadrant of the state, there are many migrant farm workers in other areas, including over 300 migrant labor camps and an average of 32,000 migrant farm laborers and family members who come to New Jersey annually to work.

From 2007 to 2011, 533 children from New Jersey were reported missing to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), including 34 children who were suspected or confirmed to be involved in prostitution. For the same period, NCMEC disseminated 3,725 cyber-tipline reports related to child sexual exploitation to New Jersey law enforcement. The FBI believes that pimps in northern New Jersey traffic child victims into New York and other cities for prostitution, and the Atlantic City area is targeted by criminals who exploit children because of the many visitors to the casino resorts. Statistics kept by the Division of Criminal Justice indicate 179 reported human trafficking victims from Sept. 16, 2005 to March 1, 2012, including 93 victims of labor trafficking, 60 of sex trafficking, and 26 of both labor and sex trafficking. According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Call Data Breakdown (Polaris Project 2010-11), New Jersey had nearly 500 human trafficking hotline calls in the past two years, the eighth highest number among the states.

“The creation of a Human Trafficking Unit with increased staffing within the Division of Criminal Justice reflects our commitment to aggressively investigate and prosecute human trafficking crimes, whether they involve prostitution, forced labor, or both,” said Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’re determined to increase interdiction of human trafficking and rescue more of its victims.”

Chiesa’s Human Trafficking Directive establishes the following policy:

It shall be the law enforcement policy of this State to fully and fairly investigate and prosecute violations of [New Jersey’s Criminal Human Trafficking Statute] with a view toward deterring human trafficking violations to the greatest extent possible. All law enforcement agencies and officers shall be required: to promptly and thoroughly investigate possible violations of human trafficking; to keep State and county prosecution authorities apprised of human trafficking investigations to ensure that all investigative leads are pursued as appropriate, and to make certain that all investigations are properly coordinated; to protect the immediate safety and security of human trafficking victims, and to respect and safeguard the rights of these victims.

Prompt and Thorough Investigations

The directive requires that whenever a law enforcement agency or officer develops a reasonable suspicion that the crime of human trafficking has been committed, or receives a report about human trafficking, or learns from a person that she or he is a victim of human trafficking, they must (1) promptly investigate the matter, or (2) promptly refer it to the appropriate county prosecutor’s office or to the Division of Criminal Justice for investigation. When local agencies or officers pursue their own investigation, they must alert the county prosecutor’s office within 24 hours, reporting the information that prompted the investigation and the results of the investigation to that point.

Every county prosecutor must designate at least one investigator and one assistant prosecutor to receive specialized training in human trafficking investigations and serve as human trafficking liaisons to the Division of Criminal Justice and police agencies under the directive. The directive requires police to immediately report to the county prosecutor when they make an arrest or otherwise develop probable cause to believe the crime of human trafficking has been committed. The county prosecutor’s office must report the matter to the Division of Criminal Justice as soon as practicable, and in no event later than 12 hours after receiving notice. County prosecutors must notify the Division of Criminal Justice of any significant development in a prosecution for human trafficking.

Pursuing All Investigative Leads

As noted in the directive, the crime of human trafficking often goes undetected and unreported because victims feel isolated and powerless, and often are unable, afraid, or otherwise unwilling to seek assistance from law enforcement. Even when a trafficked person comes to the attention of law enforcement, either as a domestic violence victim, sexual assault victim, prostituted person, or a victim of labor law violations, it is unlikely that he or she will self-identify as a victim because of fears of being discovered and deported. In addition, police may focus on the criminal activity of the victim, rather than violations the victim has endured. As a result, it is critical that officers recognize telltale indicators of human trafficking when investigating other offenses that may be associated with it, and pose questions that will expose human trafficking. Vigilance is especially critical in dealing with businesses and places that experience has shown may be used to harbor or conceal human trafficking, such as strip clubs, other sexually oriented businesses, massage parlors and nail salons.

The directive requires that within 60 days of its effective date, the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice must develop and disseminate to all law enforcement agencies investigation standards and protocols to be used by officers when investigating a possible human trafficking violation. These standards shall be designed to enhance the thoroughness, timeliness, quality, and coordination of human trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and shall include:

  1. A detailed description of specific circumstances that are relevant to a possible human trafficking violation and that must be investigated to the extent feasible;
  2. Guidelines on the specific questions to be posed during an investigation so as to obtain evidence or information concerning such relevant circumstances; and
  3. A detailed description of the methods of investigation to be used to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the investigative process. Those investigative methods shall, among other things, specifically address the fear and intimidation that often silences victims of human trafficking. For example, whenever practical, all possible victims and witnesses should be interviewed separately, in the individual’s same language, and well outside the presence of the individual’s employer, landlord, or any other person who may intimidate or inappropriately influence the possible victim/witness.

The directive calls for the Division of Criminal Justice to develop an online human trafficking training program for police officers and prosecutors within 90 days. Every state, county and local law enforcement agency will, in turn, be required to have appropriate personnel receive the training within 90 days after it is made available. The Division of Criminal Justice is also required to develop curricula on human trafficking for use at all police academies governed by the Police Training Commission, as well as the State Police Training Academy.

Protecting the Safety, Security and Rights of Victims

The directive requires officers to ensure the safety and security of possible victims of human trafficking by notifying the county prosecutor’s human trafficking liaison as soon as practicable so such persons can be referred for services. The directive requires the Division of Criminal Justice, under authority provided by the Legislature, to work with the county prosecutors, Department of Health & Senior Services, Department of Children & Families and State Police to develop law enforcement standards and protocols to provide information and services to human trafficking victims and minors charged with prostitution. Law enforcement must coordinate such efforts with federal authorities under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003.

The DCJ Human Trafficking Unit will work with law enforcement at all levels and enhance the efforts of the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force, which was created in 2005 in the Division of Criminal Justice. The Task Force works with victim-witness coordinators and victim service providers to refer victims for comprehensive services. DCJ works closely with the Internet Crimes Against Children Regional Task Force, led by the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Unit, to investigate crimes involving use of computers in the sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography. DCJ and the State Police also work with the FBI in the Innocence Lost National Initiative, which has two working groups targeting child prostitution in Atlantic City, and in Essex, Union and Hudson counties. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and the Jersey City Police Department led in 2010 to an 18-year prison sentence for Allen “Prince” Brown, who ran a major human trafficking ring in Jersey City, in which women were brought from Philadelphia, Camden, Atlantic City and Elizabeth and enslaved in a life of forced prostitution and drug addiction.

The Division of Criminal Justice maintains a 24-hour NJ Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-877-986-7534. The website for the NJ Human Trafficking Task Force is at www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/humantrafficking.

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