Grant Will Help Fight Trafficking in NJ
Congressman Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), author of two landmark laws criminalizing human trafficking, proudly announced the award of nearly $100,000 for a New Jersey/New York anti-sex trafficking program operated by The Polaris Project. The funds were earmarked for this purpose at Smith’s request as part of the FY 2004 Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Act.Congressman Chris Smith (R-Hamilton), author of two landmark laws criminalizing human trafficking, proudly announced the award of nearly $100,000 for a New Jersey/New York anti-sex trafficking program operated by The Polaris Project. The funds were earmarked for this purpose at Smith’s request as part of the FY 2004 Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Act.
"This project is critical to protecting victims, improving the effectiveness of our law enforcement personnel, and gaining a better understanding of how sex trafficking networks operate in our state," Smith stated.
The Polaris Project, the recipient of the grant, is a Washington-D.C. based nonprofit organization that runs anti-human trafficking programs around the country. Under the terms of the project, the New Jersey Anti-Trafficking Program will map out sex trafficking networks that exist in New Jersey, analyze how victims are acquired, how they’re abused for profit, and what the best strategies are for convincing trafficking victims to cooperate with law enforcement efforts to permanently shut down these horrible criminal networks.\
Katherine Chon, Coexecutive Director of the Polaris Project, stated: "We are really looking forward to working in New Jersey, because we know there’s a real need out there. Congressman Smith has been extremely active, and we are very fortunate to have his support."
Polaris will build on the experience it has learned operating its anti-trafficking program in the D.C. area. Its staff currently accompany D.C. law enforcement on raids of suspected bars and nightclubs where sex trafficked victims are abused, and are present on the spot to provide emergency services to victims such as shelter, medical evaluations, and counseling. The project works closely with law enforcement and longer term government and NGO service providers in the critical first 36 hours. Polaris will also work with community members to conduct outreach and raise awareness.
"The scourge of human sex trafficking is global in scope, but New Jersey and New York City are sadly not immune. Organized criminals in our own communities are busily enslaving women and girls and forcing them to work in the sex trade for profit. These brutalized victims live in our midst, yet they are rarely seen or heard. Some are prohibited from ever leaving their place of enslavement, living as prisoners. Others are so terrified of retaliation that they suffer in silence, never saying a word about their true situation," said Smith.
Other elements of the plan include law enforcement training so police better understand the victims’ plight and secure cooperation during subsequent arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators. Improving the social skills of law enforcement personnel who interact with sex trafficking victims is critical in our nation’s fight against human slavery. In too many cases, victims are seen by untrained police as nothing more than prostitutes to be arrested, deported (if illegally smuggled into the U.S.), and turned back out onto the street. Many victims have been beaten and threatened with violence (often against families and loved ones) if they cooperate. Thus, police need to carefully assuage these concerns and line up victim services (including in many cases witness protection) in order to convince them to come forward and testify against their abusers.
The Congressman added, "I am pleased that the Polaris Project is stepping up to the plate and providing vitally needed services in New Jersey. Their toll-free information and tipline, as well as their outreach, victim assistance, and law enforcement training services, are absolutely invaluable in the fight against the sex trade industry. This federal funding which I have secured is needed and a very timely reinforcement of our state’s existing and ongoing anti-human trafficking efforts, including the prosecution and investigatory efforts of our U.S. Attorney, Chris Christie."
This grant announcement follows other recent anti-trafficking initiatives Smith has spearheaded in New Jersey, including the Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking, launched last week in Newark. Joining the Congressman at this campaign’s kick-off event were Newark Archbishop John Myers, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Chris Christie, Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights Alex Acosta, and Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Wade Horn.
Earlier in the year, Smith secured federal support to help launch the New Jersey Anti-Trafficking Initiative under the auspices of the International Institute of New Jersey. That project was launched at a major workshop and conference in Trenton.