Human trafficking happens in New Hampshire too
The incidence of human trafficking is even higher than data reveal
The usual response from Granite Staters when you mention human trafficking has been, “That doesn’t happen here in New Hampshire, only in those other countries and to other people.” Yet 83 percent of confirmed cases of sex trafficking in America involve U.S. citizens, and it occurs in every state. The perception in New Hampshire of this modern-day-slavery crime is starting to change through the dedicated work of the NH Human Trafficking Collaborative Task Force.
The task force, funded by a three-year, $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, is led by the Manchester Police Department, Child and Family Services of New Hampshire, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for exploitation through labor, services or a commercial sex act by force, fraud or coercion.” Surviving victims are traumatized, and perpetrators get rich. It is the third most lucrative activity internationally, next to drug and arms trafficking.
The goals of the task force are to ensure that comprehensive and specialized services are made available to victims of human trafficking across the state of New Hampshire through a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach and that perpetrators of sex trafficking and forced labor are investigated and prosecuted.
In addition to the primary lead organizations in this endeavor, many other local and statewide stakeholders participate in the overall effort to educate those in professions that could encounter trafficking, such as law enforcement, other first responders and the public.
Federal laws make human trafficking a felony, and many states, including New Hampshire, have added similar laws to their criminal statutes so that more regional and local attention can be brought to this crime, victims identified and helped, and traffickers identified and prosecuted.
For the first time, we have data on New Hampshire sex and labor trafficking cases conducted by agencies funded under the grant. Although the data set is not comprehensive for the state (currently including information only from cooperating organizations), it reveals this: Human trafficking does, indeed, occur in New Hampshire.
Among the victims of human trafficking identified in New Hampshire since the task force began collecting data, 32 have been offered services by various collaborating organizations. Additionally, nine people have been arrested for a human trafficking-related incident, and six have been indicted for sex, labor or both offenses.
It’s important to note that in some identified cases, the victim ultimately chooses to not cooperate with law enforcement and the case is dropped. Thus, in actuality, the incidence of human trafficking in our state is higher than the data reveal.
To date, almost 90 training sessions offered by the task force have reached over 1,600 professionals who are now educated in recognizing the signs of sex and labor trafficking and what to do if they identify a victim. Those attending included public and mental health workers, social service providers and many others. Any group interested in hosting a training or learning more can contact Rebecca Ayling at 518-4178 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about sex and labor trafficking, check out the Polaris Project or the Blue Campaign websites.
Suzanne Harvey of Nashua is a community member of the task force and, after five terms in the NH House, is retiring from the Legislature.