"Red Flags" Identified

Human Trafficking Task Force Training Draws Professionals
Human Trafficking Task Force Training Draws Professionals
Friday, August 2, 2013

More than 45 community advocates, law enforcement officials and others professionals gathered Monday for free training offered by the Western New York Human Trafficking Task Force and sponsored by the ILR School Outreach Division.

It was held at the ILR Conference Center in King-Shaw Hall and facilitated by Professor Arnab Basu and Professor Nancy Chau of the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

Kerry Battenfeld, a community educator and advocate at the International Institute of Buffalo, offered an overview of human trafficking in Western New York.

She described the often overlooked "red flags" of trafficking -- dependence on a "friend" or co-worker to answer questions, emotional trauma symptoms and untreated injuries.

Battenfeld acknowledged that recognizing trafficking can be difficult.

"Victims tend to be isolated, so they're not in places where you might come into contact with them … on a farm, a private home, a massage parlor, etcetera," she said.

"There are only certain people that are going to frequent those businesses, and they're not the ones reporting. Another issue is the climate of fear that the traffickers create so that their victims are fearful of reaching out for help."

Emma Buckthal, an immigration staff attorney for the Volunteer Lawyers Project, discussed the legal means of redress available to undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented workers comprise the majority of victims in Western New York, according to Battenfeld.

The day concluded with a discussion about the possibility of a task force specifically for the Southern Tier region. The discussion was led by Renan Salgado, a human trafficking specialist at the Worker Justice Center of New York.

Participants discussed the need to establish cooperation between different agencies involved in the process, such as social service providers, legal service providers, and federal and local law enforcement.

"When a case comes forward, it's tricky to navigate the next step … The purpose of gathering a group of people like this and establishing a task force is to make it the most successful process possible," Salgado said.

Battenfeld, echoing Salgado's sentiments, said "Trafficking works differently in different regions. Getting everyone together so there can be a coordinated response specific to the area is really important."

"Just knowing who the other players are and knowing who you can call is necessary for an effective response," she said.