WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y – Founders of the Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force, led by Pound Ridge Police Chief David Ryan and Town Board member Ali Boak, came together last week for an educational seminar for lawyers and other members of the legal profession.
The seminar, which focused on human trafficking, was attended by members of the Westchester Women’s Bar Association, the Pace Law School Criminal Justice Center and the Pace Law School Continuing Legal Education Program.
“Training, educating and awareness-raising is a critical part of the task force work,” said Boak, special adviser to the task force and one of its founders. “Human trafficking isn’t new to Westchester County; law enforcement just didn’t know what to look for. That is changing.”
Audrey Stone, second deputy district attorney and chief of Special Prosecutions Division for the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office said that it's important for the legal community of Westchester to learn the indicators of human trafficking.
“This is an issue that happens all over the world, including right here in our own backyard in Westchester County,” she said.
Lauren Pesso, director of the Human Trafficking Program for My Sisters’ Place, a Westchester based not-for-profit offering shelter and services to victims of domestic violence and trafficking, concurred, noting that since 2009 her organization has been referred over 120 cases of human trafficking and continues to see an average of about one case per week.
“Human trafficking is an important issue and we are fortunate to have this task force and its expertise in our county,” said County Legislator Peter Harckham (D – Bedford). “The [County] Board helped fund training for key responders around the county in March 2011.”
Ryan said the Task Force will step up its police training efforts later this year.
“The Task Force is in the midst of planning some special training for law enforcement this spring focusing on investigative techniques in human trafficking cases,” he said.