By Andy Metzger and Mike Deehan
State House News Service
BOSTON -- Two years after the Legislature enacted new human-trafficking laws, a task force is recommending changes to state policy to better support victims' programs, including making trafficking victims available to receive state benefits and assisting victims in obtaining federal visa protection.
"We can provide deterrents, we can provide a message to victims that there are places to go if you feel you want to get out, and there are ways in which we can both identify and provide effective deterrents to those who would buy sex and those who would sell these young people on the street and in hotel rooms," said Attorney General Martha Coakley, chairwoman of the Interagency Human Trafficking Policy Task Force, in announcing the group's findings and recommendations Monday.
The November 2011 law established a new trafficking felony, increased existing penalties and required additional obligations for certain people to report trafficking. The task force created by that new law Monday recommended changes in the area of social services to better assist those who have been forced into prostitution or other forms of servitude.
The task force recommends a safe-house program for trafficking survivors, launching a public-awareness campaign and creating a "John school," a program for first-time offenders caught soliciting prostitution.
Coakley said the ease of scheduling encounters on the Internet and using online tools to avoid law enforcement and detention has caused human trafficking to remain a problem and, in some cases, increase.
"Traffickers have recognized how lucrative this is," Coakley said. "With places like Craigslist (and) online advertising, you can make a lot of money moving people for sex."
Worldwide, the sale of men and women generates $32 billion annually, and in the United States, 300,000 children are trafficked per year, and the average age of entry into prostitution is 13, according to the task force.
The report grapples with the scope of the murky, underground world of trafficking in Massachusetts, and Coakley said the task force is hoping to get more information through additional research.
"One of the things we want to do is get a better idea of those numbers," Coakley said.
The task force recommends more coordinated data collection in law enforcement.
A 2012 report by the Children's Advocacy Center documented "more than 480 child victims of sexual exploitation received services in Suffolk County between 2005 and 2012," nearly all of them females and the majority being people of color, according to the task force's report.
There is overlap between victims trafficked for sex crimes and those trafficked and those involved in other trafficking situations "including forced labor, domestic servitude, or debt bondage in workplaces such as restaurants, bars, nail salons, and factories," according to the task force.
Temporary work is also an area of exploitation, as is domestic work. The report quotes Brazilian Immigrant Center Executive Director Natalicia Tracy describing how she worked 80- to 90-hour weeks at the age of 17 as a domestic worker in Brookline, where she made $25 per week, was restricted from communicating with her family, and had to sleep outside in the cold.