Skip to Main Content

Office of Mental Health

New York State Response to Labor and Sex Trafficking

Human Trafficking: A Violation of Human Rights

View Adobe Acrobat Version | Download Adobe Acrobat Reader

What is Human Trafficking?

Human Trafficking is a violation of human rights. It is a widespread form of modern day slavery in which human beings are bought and sold like commodities “for the purpose of profiting from their labor or sexual exploitation.”

Traffickers instill fear in their victims through physical or emotional abuse or by threatening to hurt victims' family members.

Many human trafficking victims are unaware that their rights have been violated or that the individuals who engage in trafficking are criminals. Victims do have rights, and in New York State a Human Trafficking Law was enacted to protect and provide services for victims and to prosecute traffickers under New York State Law. It also created an Inter-Agency task force chaired by the Commissioners of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, to help implement the law.

How Do People Become Victims?

The crime of trafficking involves withholding ID, unlawfully providing drugs, debt bondage, fraud, deceit, instilling fear, and/or the use or threat of force. Trafficking victims are often lured with false promises of good jobs and better lives, and then forced to work under brutal and inhumane conditions.

In many countries, trafficking victims do not trust law enforcement, because traffickers often bribe police to return victims back to them. In the U.S. victims often do not trust law enforcement out of fear of deportation or incarceration.

Men, women, and children, of all ages, races, and nationalities are vulnerable to human trafficking; it does not discriminate.

A human trafficking victim looks like someone you see every day.

Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking

You may have encountered someone who was trafficked if you know or hear of:

  • Someone who has no personal ID or documents
  • A mail-order bride or a similar situation
  • An employer, a “family member,” or a person accompanying an individual who is overbearing and controlling
  • Someone who indicates he/she is not allowed to do basic things at work or home, such as taking bathroom or lunch breaks
  • Someone who does not have transportation and does not know how to get around their own neighborhood

Providing Services

Jorge's Story…
Jorge was lured to the U.S. from Mexico with the promise of a high-paying farm job. When he arrived, his “employers” said they could not pay him for at least two months. Jorge's papers and legal documents were taken by his employers for “safekeeping,” which left him unable to return to Mexico.

  • Language and job training
  • Health treatment
  • Mental health treatment
  • Immigration and legal assistance
  • Emergency temporary housing
  • Access to potential federal benefits

Where Does Trafficking Occur?

People are trafficked across international borders, and also within a country, state, city, or town.

Human Trafficking occurs in many countries, including the United States. With our international airports and many ethnic enclaves, New York State is considered to be a major hub of Trafficking in the country.

Trafficking can occur in various forms and locations, such as, but not limited to, the following:

Heather's Story…
Heather from upstate ran away when she was 16.  She met a couple who told her they would find her work as a hostess in an upscale restaurant. However, her first day “on the job” they told her that she would have to strip in a bar to pay off alleged debt incurred for her transportation, housing, and food.

  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation (night clubs, brothels, massage parlors, pornography, street prostitution)
  • Restaurants
  • Mail Order Brides
  • Agriculture/farms
  • Domestic work
  • Hotel housekeeping
  • Landscape/Construction Work
  • Factory work and sweatshops
  • Nail salons

Those charged with prostitution may have been forced into the sex trade and should be carefully screened to identify victims.

New York State's Human Trafficking Law

New York State's 2007 human trafficking law is the most comprehensive of its kind in the country, providing law enforcement with vital new tools to combat what has aptly been described as "modern-day slavery." Putting an end to this age-old blight is a major priority of Governor David A. Paterson.

Landmark legislation that took effect November 1, 2007 recognizes that those trafficked for prostitution and labor are victims of crime, and encourages them to be treated as victims rather than criminals or illegal immigrants. New York State has adopted a multifaceted and multi-disciplinary approach to fighting human trafficking. It addresses human trafficking by:

  • Establishing new crimes that specify the methods of inducement and control used by traffickers to exploit their victims.
  • Providing services to human trafficking victims who are unable to obtain assistance elsewhere due to their immigration status.
  • Creating an Interagency Task Force to coordinate the implementation of the new law and the State's efforts to combat human trafficking.

New York's law is designed to attack the "supply" side of human trafficking by creating two new crimes - sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

Numbers and Contact Information

  • If you suspect someone has been a victim of labor or sex trafficking, contact your local law enforcement agency. For emergency assistance, call 911.
  • If you are a law enforcement officer working after hours on an emergency case call 1-800-262-3257.
  • If you have questions about services available for human trafficking victims call (518) 402-3096.