Advocates and lawyers for victims of sex trafficking said the NYPD is treating their clients more like criminals than victims, and that needs to change.
At a City Council hearing Wednesday, public defenders and representatives from nonprofit groups said victims should get more assistance in getting out from under the influence of the men controlling them.
“What is missing is service provisions to help these young people, first of all understand their victimization, cope with their victimization, be in a safe place to receive healing service, and then maybe be in a position to help in a prosecution,” said Katherine Mullen with the Legal Aid Society of New York.
But NYPD Inspector James Capaldo defended the department's practices. He said a specially trained Human Trafficking Team handles all of the 1,700 prostitution arrests that police make each year.
“All of the persons arrested for that charge have been debriefed - specifically if they are underage - in order to develop trafficking cases.”
Capaldo said, once the prostitute is confirmed to be a victim of sex-trafficking, the team begins an investigation.
The woman may be put into protective custody, until enough evidence is built against her trafficker, but Capaldo said those kinds of cases are hard to pursue.
“Victims of human trafficking are often too terrified to report their plight, to identify themselves as victims, or to cooperate with the law enforcement officers who seek to apprehend their exploiters,” Capaldo said.
So far in 2011, the Human Trafficking Team has handled 76 cases resulting in 70 arrests.