On Feb. 9 key Federal, State and local law enforcement and non-governmental agencies will come together officially for the second time to continue their work of the Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force, which was officially launched last month.
Spearheaded by the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), My Sisters’ Place, and the Pound Ridge Police Department, the aim of this multi-disciplinary task force is to bring together key responders from various disciplines and backgrounds that work together on a consistent basis to identify and assist victims of trafficking across Westchester County through proactive investigations.
According to David Ryan, chief of the Pound Ridge Police Department and a founder of the Task Force, “we have already had a major case of human trafficking in Pound Ridge and we know there are more cases out there that need to be brought to light.”
“There are a diversity of circumstances that make Westchester County a prime location for human trafficking,” says Karen Cheeks-Lomax, executive director of My Sisters’ Place. “For example, there is a sizeable immigrant population and a variety of industries and living circumstances requiring the presence of all types of workers.”
My Sisters’ Place has been designated by New York State as the social service provider for cases of human trafficking throughout the Lower Hudson Valley Region, including Westchester County.
“The Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force joins the ranks of more than 42 other task forces that have been formed across the United States to combat human trafficking,” according to Ali Boak, co-founder and president of IOFA. “We are modeling this Task Force on standards set by the United States Justice Department and on best practices gleaned from both national and international efforts of multi-disciplinary anti-trafficking task forces.”
Boak, who has worked to set up more than eight task forces in New York City, Latvia and the Dominican Republic is advising the Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force.
According to Westchester County Board of Legislators Majority Leader Peter Harckham, whose office hosted the meeting, “the launch of the Task Force brought together representatives from key Federal, State, and local agencies for the first time to work in a concerted effort to develop a coordinated community response to combat human trafficking in Westchester County.”
The agencies include: the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); The United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District; the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance/Bureau of Refugee & Immigrant Assistance; the New York State Department of Labor; the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office; the Westchester County Office for Women, the Westchester County Family Justice Center; the Westchester County Association of Police Chiefs; the Westchester County Division of Child Welfare; The International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA); My Sisters’ Place; and representatives from the following Westchester County Police Departments: New Rochelle, Mt. Kisco, Mt. Vernon, Peekskill, Port Chester, Pound Ridge, White Plains, Yonkers and Yorktown. In the future, the Task Force will also include key community service providers who can provide an array of support services to all victims of labor or sex trafficking.
For more information contact:
Alison Boak, MPH Co-Founder and President,
International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA)
Amy Siniscalchi, Director of Programs
My Sisters’ Place
Chief David Ryan, Pound Ridge Police Department