Westchester Task Force Unveils Plans to Develop
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The Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force, spearheaded by the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), My Sisters’ Place, the Pound Ridge Police Department, and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, kicked off the start to their second year by unveiling a plan to develop a multi-agency anti-trafficking protocol.
According to Ali Boak, Co-founder and President of IOFA and Special Advisor to the Task Force who will lead the group through the process of protocol development said, “The process of developing the protocol is nearly as important as the outcome document itself. We will work as a group to closely examine the role and responsibilities of each agency when a case of human trafficking is identified.”
Unlike many crimes, human trafficking often requires joint cooperation between and among local, state and federal law enforcement as well as social service providers. Audrey Stone, 2nd Deputy District Attorney, Chief, Special Prosecutions Division, Westchester County District Attorney’s Office commented “The launch of our County’s Anti-Trafficking Task Force represents our first county-wide unified response to trafficking. Our success in tracking offenders and prosecuting traffickers will be enhanced through the Task Force’s joint work and cooperation.”
Nicholas Sensley, the Anti-Human Trafficking Strategy and Development Consultant for Humanity United, spoke to the task force at their first meeting of 2012 about his experience developing task forces around the world. “It’s encouraging to see the unity and interdependence of the Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force. The essential seal for continuity and dependable resourcefulness is an operational protocol. “
“To ensure a victim-centered response, it’s critical that task force members have in place a set of guidelines about how law enforcement and social service providers, such as My Sisters’ Place, will work in collaboration to protect the rights of potentially trafficked persons and meet their needs once they are identified” says Karen Cheeks-Lomax, Executive Director of My Sisters’ Place.
The protocol development is slated to begin this Spring but the group will also continue their important efforts to train first responders across the County. To date the task force has trained over 300 law enforcement agents, hospital workers, social workers, ambulance drivers, and other professionals likely to encounter potential victims of human trafficking.
Members of the Westchester County Task Force include: Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, State Attorney General’s Office, U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (ICE), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), State Department of Labor, Westchester County Association of Police Chiefs, Westchester County Family Justice Center (FJC), Westchester County Department of Public Safety Westchester County Department of Probation, Yonkers Police Department, Yorktown Police Department, Westchester County Office for Women, Port Chester Police Department, Peekskill Police Department New Rochelle Police Department Mount Vernon Police Department, White Plains Police Department, Pound Ridge Police Department, Mount Kisco Police Department, Child Welfare Training Academy, International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), My Sisters’ Place, Hispanic Resource Center, Victim Assistance Services, and Hudson River HealthCare.