Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to crack down on human trafficking, submitted to the state Legislature as part of his Women’s Equality Act, comes as New York lags behind other states in attacking the problem.
Experts say thousands of people are trafficked every year in New York — as sex slaves or forced farm workers. Yet relatively few arrests are made, largely because of legal obstacles and the victims’ fear of coming forward.
“In New York, as far as human trafficking is concerned, we’re where the domestic violence movement was 25 to 30 years ago,” said Emily Amick, a lawyer with Sanctuary for New York Families, an advocacy group.
Cuomo’s proposed legislation would toughen penalties, making trafficking a Class B felony — a violent crime with a minimum sentence of 5 years. Offenders now face as little as a year in jail.
“Governor Cuomo’s legislation recognizes the incredible violence of human trafficking,” Amick said.
Under the measure, sex slaves arrested in connection with prostitution could cite trafficking as a defense — a move advocates believe could lead to more investigations of human slavery rings. Prosecutors would also no longer have to prove juveniles were coerced or tricked into slavery.