Turn To Tara team explores changes since 2018 'Slavery in Suburbia' series on human trafficking
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Monday presented News 12 with the opportunity to explore what's changed since the Turn To Tara team's "Slavery in Suburbia" series.
Two years ago, News 12 spoke to Melani, who spoke out while taking the Turn To Tara team on a tour of the unexpected places women and children are being bought and sold in the Hudson Valley.
Her story prompted widespread outrage and especially hit home for young activists. But sadly, News 12 learned that despite increased attention to the problem, the numbers have only grown worse.
In 2019, New York ranked second in the nation for the number of active human trafficking cases in federal court with 57 cases.
A majority of the victims singled out in recent years by traffickers have been vulnerable children struggling in the foster care system or with their immigration status.
What has changed since News 12 featured the series are the places where exploitation is happening the most.
Shortly after the series aired back in 2018, the controversial website Backpage.com got shutdown.
Feehs says traffickers have caught up and moved on to other platforms. Cityxguide, MegaPersonals and Skip the Games were the sites most commonly mentioned in court cases in 2019.
While the data for 2020 isn't available just yet, local law enforcement officials tell News 12 there was an alarming uptick in trafficking during the months of lockdown.
This is why Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Scarsdale says she's pushing to pass anti-trafficking legislation up in Albany that would require intensive training for hotel workers all across the state.
Feehs believes the problem is much bigger than New York and requires more federal resources to prioritize specialized investigations and prosecutions.
The most recent data suggests about 65% of sex trafficking victims in New York are children.