January Proclaimed Human Trafficking Prevention Month by Morris County Commissioners

January Proclaimed Human Trafficking Prevention Month by Morris County Commissioners

Proclamation Presented to Mendham Township Resident Dr. Christine Blood

Morris County’s Board of County Commissioners today proclaimed January 2023 Human Trafficking Prevention Month in Morris County to raise awareness of human trafficking and educate the public on how to identify and prevent this crime.

During the Board’s public work session in Morristown, Dr. Christine Blood, a Mendham resident and president of Prism Medical Communications, presented on the issue of child trafficking. Dr. Blood had approached Commissioner Deputy Director Christine Myers about public speaking on the issue of child trafficking, a request Deputy Director Myers fully supported. She invited her, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and Morris County Sheriff’s Office to the January 25, 2023 Morris County Board of County Commissioners work session to address the matter head on.

“This is an issue that is not well known and is hard to speak about. It’s even harder to get your arms around the fact that it could be happening here in Morris County. I applaud Dr. Blood as a citizen for taking up this important initiative. This is how our county makes a difference—by private citizens engaging to help prevent this growing atrocity,” said Deputy Director Myers.

Dr. Blood opened her presentation with a troublesome statistic: every 60 seconds two children are trafficked, mostly from Mexico to the United States. Her focus moved on to the Goya Cares initiative (https://goyacares.com/) and the importance of addressing this widespread crisis.

After her speech, Commissioner Director John Krickus thanked Dr. Blood and presented a framed and signed copy of the proclamation to her.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the United States’ primary source for criminal justice statistics, reports the number of persons prosecuted for human trafficking increased from 729 in 2011 to 1,343 in 2020, an 84% increase.

During the work session, Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll and Morris County Senior Assistant Prosecutor Laura Magnone, a member of Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force leading trafficking prosecutions in Morris County, spoke on the efforts being made by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office to combat the problem regionally.

Morris County’s first human trafficking trial, the State v. Aldophus Mims, took place in 2019. Mims was convicted of human trafficking, promoting prostitution of two minors, sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and distribution of heroin, and was sentenced to 40 years in state prison without parole. The trial received national recognition when Senior Assistant Prosecutor Magnone and Sergeant Marshall Wang were invited to present the case at the North American Human Trafficking Conference held this past September 2022 in Las Vegas. Law Enforcement from over 39 states and three countries were in attendance.

“We have conducted undercover operations to recover victims of human trafficking and prosecute those who commit such crimes. We work with numerous municipalities in Morris County and are proud that we have been successful in recovering many victims as a result of these operations,” stated Senior Assistant Prosecutor Magnone.

The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office provides educational seminars on human trafficking to the police academy, Morris County schools, local organizations and the general public, and train the staff at Morris County Correctional Facility, the Youth Shelter and Juvenile Detention Center. They conduct monthly meetings and group trainings with the Morris County Correctional Facility to assist members in identifying potential victims of human trafficking within the facility.

Morris County Bureau of Corrections Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson, a longtime Project Alert Representative (America’s Law Enforcement Retiree Team) for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), provided updates on Project Offer Help.

Project Offer Help is a Morris County Correctional Facility (MCCF) human trafficking initiative developed in October 2020 for identifying and assisting incoming inmates who are potential victims of human trafficking, commercial sex trafficking or forced labor. The initiative is coordinated with Social Services, the FBI Newark Field Office, and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, which operates one of the most successful human trafficking programs in Corrections nationwide.

Undersheriff Robinson stated, “After the success of the first poster content, the second Human Trafficking Poster Contest at Morris County Middle and High Schools is currently taking place. This program directly invites and informs the most vulnerable populations and victims of human trafficking. It also ensures the issue is brought to the attention of the parents of children in the schools.”

Human Trafficking Committee consisting of members from the MCCF County Correctional Police Officers, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, the FBI Newark Field Office, the Jersey Battered Women’s Society, and the New Jersey State Commission of Investigations, meets monthly to address program issues.

Correctional Police Captain Joseph Michael Fucci, who chairs the Human Trafficking Committee, was the first superior officer to bring a program like Project Offer Help to any county correctional facility in New Jersey. Jennifer Castner with the MCCF Social Services Department and retired Detective Corporal Edwin Santana, now a civilian system analyst with the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, support the program’s success.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation (January 2020) reports that human trafficking and child sexual exploitation remain underreported crimes, as victims rarely come forward to seek help whether do to inability or the exploitation of their vulnerabilities preventing them from seeking assistance.

Victims rarely know their rights and how to get help, or they are afraid to reach out for fear of being hurt, arrested, or deported.

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) and its 2003, 2005, and 2008 reauthorizations, human trafficking has occurred if a person was induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. Any person under age 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion was present.

To report suspected human trafficking, the importation of goods produced with forced labor, or child sexual exploitation to federal law enforcement, call: 1-866-347-2423. To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 Or text HELP or INFO to 233733 (BEFREE). To get help with child sexual exploitation from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or report.cybertip.org.

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