Last month, Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly announced the launch of the Connecticut Human Trafficking Task Force, a group dedicated to combatting sexual and labor exploitation for financial gain around the state. The issue of sex trafficking, in particular, is quickly reaching alarming levels of concern, as the Connecticut Department of Children and Families has received more than 80 referrals of possible trafficking victims just this year.
At the press conference announcing the creation of the task force, Daly made very strong comments regarding the seriousness of the problem. “Over the last several years,” she said, “it has become increasingly clear that human trafficking, and especially the sex trafficking of minors, this cruel victimization of defenseless young girls and sometimes boys, is a form of modern-day slavery.” While law enforcement efforts continue, she observed, the Internet has made the buying and selling of sex with children more available than ever before.
In the last ten years, the United States Attorney’s Office for Connecticut has prosecuted about 20 sex trafficking cases involving children, a number that Daly hopes will increase as a result of the task force. Most recently, a sex trafficker in Connecticut was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison after being convicted of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of conspiring to commit sex trafficking of a minor. The man had previously served less than a year in prison for similar charges in New Jersey. The task force hopes to identify and stop dangerous individuals, and especially those with a prior conviction, from preying on victims in the state.
The task force, in its current form, consists of representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Labor, the Connecticut State Police, and more than a dozen local police departments. However, there is another, non-government organization that seems to be ready to jump into the battle against human trafficking. Led by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Krishna Patel, the Justice Initiative is an outreach of the Grace Farms Foundation, an organization that promotes community, faith, art, nature, and justice throughout the state.
The Justice Initiative plans to take the fight against sex trafficking online. By utilizing state-of-the-art computer technology and data-mining techniques, the group will be looking for evidence of predators and would-be traffickers. “Law enforcement need[s] to understand that it’s a new world,” said Patel. “Every officer and agent needs to be capable of going on the Internet and gathering evidence.” While there are no formal connections between the Justice Initiative and Attorney Daly’s task force yet, experts suggest that cooperation between the two groups, along with any other governmental and private organization, is the most effective way to fight the problem.
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