For Immediate Release - January 11, 2013

AG Coakley Observes Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Urges Education and Action to Prevent Exploitation

BOSTON – Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley issued the following statement on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day:

“Human trafficking is one of the most egregious human rights violations that we see today, and it is happening right in our own communities. Today, on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, I urge everyone to learn what you can do to prevent human trafficking and end the exploitation of some of our most vulnerable victims.”

“In the past year, we have made strides in our efforts to combat human trafficking throughout the Commonwealth.  Our office has already made multiple arrests and is proud to chair a dedicated Task Force committed to addressing all aspects of the issue. We remain committed to successful implementation of the law, increasing education and trainings, improving the delivery of victim and survivor services, and supporting investigations and prosecutions in order to end the exploitation of people in our Commonwealth.”

BACKGROUND:

A new law to combat human trafficking in Massachusetts has been a significant tool in the Attorney General’s effort to end the exploitation of people by holding perpetrators accountable, supporting survivors, and raising awareness of this important issue.      

Signed by Governor Deval Patrick in November 2011, the comprehensive bill established the state crimes of human trafficking for sexual servitude and human trafficking for forced labor.  The law went into effect on February 19, 2012.  AG Coakley advocated for passage of the law with critical support from lead sponsors Senator Mark Montigny and House Judiciary Chairman Eugene O’Flaherty, along with over 50 legislators and a coalition of law enforcement and victim advocates.

Prior to the passage of this new law, Massachusetts had been only one of three states in the nation without any specific law to combat human trafficking.

Shortly after passage of the new law, AG Coakley convened a 19 member Interagency Human Trafficking Task Force, which was created as part of the legislation. This group includes law enforcement officials, state and community representatives, advocates, and survivors. The Task Force, chaired by AG Coakley, meets bimonthly.  As part of its mission to address all aspects of human trafficking—data collection and information sharing, victim services, public awareness, training and education, and demand reduction - the Task Force will prepare and submit additional policy recommendations to the Legislature this July.

Last March, AG Coakley’s Office arrested and arraigned four individuals charged in connection with running a sophisticated human trafficking operation in and around the Boston area. Those were the first individuals charged by AG Coakley’s Office under the new human trafficking law in Massachusetts.

In April, AG Coakley created a Human Trafficking Prosecution Strike Force within her Enterprise and Major Crimes Division and appointed Assistant Attorney General Deborah Bercovitch to investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases.

In August, Massachusetts was named the most improved state in Polaris Project’s annual ratings on state human trafficking laws, catapulting from the worst tier to the best in just one year. Polaris Project rated all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on ten categories of laws that are critical to a basic legal framework that combats human trafficking, punishes traffickers and supports survivors.

In October, the AGO arrested and arraigned three operators of so-called massage parlors in Wellesley and Revere in connection with human trafficking and prostitution.

In November, AG Coakley joined Indiana AG Greg Zoeller and 44 other Attorneys General in urging Congress to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which will help adequately fund programs to combat human trafficking.

In December, the AG’s Office began a series of trainings around the Commonwealth to educate law enforcement about the new law, including how to identify trafficking, make successful prosecutions and how to best support trafficking victims.

Also in December, the AG’s Office arrested and arraigned a Dorchester man for running a human trafficking and prostitution operation in the Greater Boston area.

For more information about the AG’s Human Trafficking Initiative, please click here.

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