|TRENTON - Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and Division of Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor were among the speakers at today’s “Human Trafficking Awareness Day” event that aimed to educate the public about the dangers of human trafficking in recognition of national “Human Trafficking Awareness Day,” which is held annually on Jan. 11.
“Human traffickers do not discriminate,” Attorney General Chiesa said. “They will control and exploit anyone they can manage to victimize. I assure you that combating this kind of crime, and bringing those who engage in it to justice, is of vital importance to me.”
Today’s event was sponsored by the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force. The Task Force includes representatives from our Division of Criminal Justice, the 21 county prosecutors’ offices, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DYFS, the state and federal departments of labor, and a host of non-governmental agencies and non-profit groups. The Task Force strives to educate law enforcement and the community about human trafficking: how to identify it, how to investigate it and how to prosecute it.
“Major roadways like the I-95 corridor, our state’s airports, such as Newark Liberty and Atlantic City International Airports and our ports make access into New Jersey very easy,” Director Taylor said. “Also, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country. The demand for cheap labor and commercial sexual activities is high. It’s these factors that make the work of the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force so important.”
Director Taylor reminded attendees that if anyone suspects acts of human trafficking they are urged to call the Anti-Human Trafficking hotline at 1-877-986-7534. The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In front of a crowd of approximately 100 people at the New Jersey Statehouse Annex in Trenton, Holly Austin Smith, now 33, a human trafficking survivor originally from Mt. Holly, courageously told the story of her ordeal at the age of 14. Speaking about human trafficking victims, Smith said, “These victims are not as tough and unreachable as they appear. These girls and boys still do have dreams inside of them and they are worth saving.”
In addition, students from the Jefferson Township Middle School in Morris County gave a moving presentation about their multi-media efforts to abolish this form of modern-day slavery.