TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham which would direct the Attorney General to publicize information about human trafficking hotlines and would mandate law enforcement training on responding to the needs of victims of human trafficking was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.
“For the victims of human trafficking, life can be a nightmare of abuse, forced servitude and ever-constant fear and intimidation,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. “Many of these folks have come to the United States looking for opportunity, or have fled broken homes looking for a new beginning, and instead have found victimization and slavery. We need to give them the tools to break the cycle of servitude, and give the law enforcement community the training to meet the unique needs of these people.”
The bill, S-535, would build on existing efforts by the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, under the Attorney General, by publicizing help lines for the victims of human trafficking and promoting human-trafficking-specific training for law enforcement agencies in New Jersey. Under the bill, the Attorney General would be required to publicize and promote the Toll Free Hotline to report trafficking set up by the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force – 877-986-7534 – as well any existing federal trafficking hotline and any local or county federally-funded New Jersey hotline. The bill would also amend police curriculum training requirements to include specific training on responding to the needs of victims of human trafficking.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), anywhere between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United State each year and forced into servitude. Many of these individuals are required to work menial labor for sub-standard pay, or in some cases, are sold into the international sex trade. In addition, more than 240,000 American children and youth are estimated to be at risk of child sexual exploitation, including commercial sexual exploitation and prostitution.
“This isn’t just an issue affecting foreign-born individuals brought into this country and forced against their will to work in various sex trades or as slave labor,” said Senator Cunningham. “This affects runaways and at-risk kids who think that they have nowhere else to turn and fall in with the wrong crowd, and it affects individuals who’ve become dependent on illegal drugs and are forced into prostitution to get their next fix, among many others. We cannot simply turn our backs on these victims, and have to take a stand against the evil of modern slavery, in whatever form it may take.”
The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee before going to the full Senate for consideration.