Human trafficking big concern in the Capital Region

February 23, 2019 08:42 AM

Human trafficking is a problem currently in the national spotlight after a high profile bust in Florida. Jupiter Police said billionaire New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution. 

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Police say the charge comes after a months-long human trafficking investigation that police say spanned from China to Florida. However, it’s not just a huge problem there.

 “Human trafficking does happen here, sex trafficking does happen here,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. “Most people don't want to admit it. We hit a few parlors most of them were Asian women, we brought them in,” explained Sheriff Apple. “They don't trust us. They speak limited English, they know that if they talk to us they're going to disappear and we tried everything possible."

But Apple said it’s not arrests his department is after when it comes to trafficking busts, but rather helping the women involved. 

“The low-level arrest is not worth it, but saving their life is,” said Apple. 

He said they often don’t go out looking for it, but will work off tips from the community.

“We’ll hit different spas or we'll get tipped off there's a house in a neighborhood,” said Apple.

However, often time victims don’t feel comfortable speaking to police. That’s when placed such as the Unity House in Troy can help.

“We help victims get safety,” said Sarah McGauhnea, community outreach training and supper services manager at the Unity House. “We have a 33 bed shelter it's located in Rensselaer county, it's at an undisclosed location so nobody knows where it is, it's a locked location.”

McGauhnea said she’s helped around four trafficking victims this month. She said the Unity House will help immigrants even if they’re here illegally, so they shouldn’t fear coming forward. McGauhnea said fear keeps many victims from coming forward. 

“They know they were treated poorly and a lot of times they won't leave for financial reasons, for fear for coercion, for fear of their own lives,” explained McGauhnea. 

McGauhnea said teenage girls should be aware sex trafficking is happening in the Capital Region. She said there are signs when someone is in a relationship and it could lead to trafficking. 

“Isolating them from their family, their friends, their support systems and then they start the abuse,” said McGauhnea. “They usually abuse them themselves and then they force them into trafficking. They'll say something like I'm giving you a place to stay now you have to go make me my money.”

Sheriff Apple encourages people in the community if they see something unusual, to say something. McGauhnea said people can call the Unity House Hotline if they need help or if you think someone else needs help. 



Emily De Vito

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