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It Takes a Village to End Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the act of compelling someone into work or commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion. It is illegal everywhere, but happens every day in big cities and small towns across the United States.
Human trafficking takes many forms: A foster care youth forced into commercial sex work by someone pretending to be her “boyfriend;” a migrant locked in a house, compelled to cook and clean; a man with a mental health disability laboring in a poultry processing plant for no pay.
It occurs across oceans and in our own backyards.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion a year industry. There are more than 40 million victims worldwide, including many in the United States. The National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded 11,500 domestic cases in 2019.
And those were just the reported cases. Many more are never brought to light.
Sadly, marginalized communities, including people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, undocumented immigrants, and survivors of abuse, are more likely to become victims. Studies estimate that 40 percent of U.S. sex trafficking victims are Black Americans and over 60 percent of labor trafficking victims are Hispanic.
There is no silver bullet to end human trafficking, and it won’t happen overnight. However, a concerted effort from all levels of society to combat this evil is our best hope to end it.
When communities come together, we can develop a comprehensive response. United Way is proud to leverage our network of more than 1,000 United Ways in 40 countries to identify and support local stakeholders in the fight against trafficking.
By mobilizing individuals, businesses, governments, and nonprofit organizations, our Center to Combat Human Trafficking helps coordinate efforts to end this systemic injustice.
This comprehensive approach is being piloted in cities across the country, from Las Vegas to Atlanta. Each program is designed to address each community’s unique challenges, from child abuse to poverty to homelessness.
Companies can work to educate their employees and marshal donations toward projects dedicated to combatting trafficking. Many employees at UPS, for instance, are trained to spot signs of trafficking on their daily routes. UPS employees have given millions of dollars to anti-trafficking efforts led by United Way’s Center.
Additionally, business leaders can strive to employ survivors of trafficking. Secure employment and financial stability help reduce one’s risk of being trafficked again. Employing survivors may require more inclusive hiring practices, like not automatically disqualifying those with criminal records.
As one advisor at the Human Trafficking Legal Center explains, trafficking victims are often “arrested and prosecuted for their traffickers’ crimes.”
Individuals can support anti-human trafficking initiatives by considering their purchasing choices. Consumers can look for signs of sex and labor trafficking in stores, salons, hotels, and restaurants.
They can research whether brands employ responsible sourcing practices in their supply chains.
Concerned voters have immense influence to wield, too. Congress will soon reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was first passed in 2000 to prosecute traffickers and support survivors.
Americans can call their representatives and urge them to pass this legislation and fund anti-trafficking efforts.
Every day, our lives intersect with this issue through the products we purchase, the systems we perpetuate, and people we pass on the street. Each of us has the opportunity and ability to combat human trafficking. United, we can end it.

Mara Vanderslice Kelly is executive director of the United Way Center to Combat Human Trafficking.

Pair trafficked teens at hotels in Suunyside, sout Queens

Two men have been indicted twice by a Queens County grand jury on kidnapping, sex trafficking, rape and other charges.
According to the charges, Lawrence Winslow and Alan Velvett coerced a 15-year-old girl to trade sex for cash for three days in February 2021 in two hotels in Queens.
In the second case, the defendants are accused of trafficking two other teens aged 13 and 14, as well as posting nude images of the victims online and stating that they were “for sale.”
“These three teenage victims were allegedly forced to trade sex for cash with strangers and the 14-year-old was coerced into having intercourse with both defendants,” said District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Winslow, 27, of Pennsylvania and Velvett, 27, of Jamaica were arraigned on a 28-count indictment. If convicted, Winslow and Velvett each face up to life in prison.
They were also arraigned today on a 13-count indictment. If convicted on these charges, the defendants face up to 25 years in prison.
According to the first indictment, in February the 15-year-old victim met the defendants at the La Quinta Inn on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, where she was told she would engage in sex for cash.
Winslow paid for two rooms at the hotel and took semi-nude photos of the child and posted online advertisements. Both Velvett’s and Winslow’s cell phone numbers were used with the ads.
Before the victim had sex with strangers, she was forced to have sex with Winslow twice. That was followed by a string of strangers who had intercourse with the girl, and every dollar was pocketed by the defendants.
Velvett then relocated the victim to the JFK Inn in Springfield Gardens, where the victim was again forced to have sex with strangers for cash. Velvett also coerced the girl into having sex with him.
The teenager was rescued when an undercover police officer responded to the online ad and met with the girl in person at one of the hotel rooms. Velvett was arrested after arriving in the room. Winslow was arrested after being found in the second hotel room across the hall.
In the second case, the two teens met Winslow at the La Quinta Inn where he took nude photos of the youngsters. One of the teenagers had sex with a stranger.

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