Social services and law enforcement officials have been sounding alarm bells for years about human trafficking in Chautauqua County.
Recent federal charges against a Jamestown woman, however, should do more than raise alarm bells to parents. According to a federal complaint, the woman is accused of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor after allegedly recruiting, enticing, harboring and transporting two 17-year-olds for sex between August and October of this year in Chautauqua County, Cleveland and Buffalo.
The case is infuriating and saddening, but there is a bright spot if one searches hard enough through the mucky particulars of this case.
These allegations may not have come to light were it not for the Child Advocacy Program, whose name appears multiple times in the criminal complaint. CAP’s forensic interviews helped the teenagers tell their story and helped lead to the charges. CAP doesn’t work alone, it’s part of the Safe Harbour Program, an agency that has identified 120 youth since 2017 identified as being trafficked or at risk of exploitation. In 2019 alone, 46 Chautauqua County youth were referred to the program.
Human trafficking is indeed here in Chautauqua County. Unfortunately, law enforcement officials, the CAP or members of the Safe Harbour Program can’t be everywhere. Human trafficking might not be as big a problem here as it is in bigger cities, but it’s troubling nonetheless, and our county’s general lack of population could make it ripe for traffickers to become more prolific.
That’s a sickening thought.
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