In Push to End Demand That Drives Sex Trafficking, AG Healey Partners With Local Law Enforcement to Charge Sex Buyers
AG’s Efforts Part of a National Initiative to Reduce Demand, Raise Awareness about Sexual Exploitation
BOSTON – As part of a national initiative aimed at reducing demand for commercial sex and raising awareness about the exploitation of victims in human trafficking, Attorney General Maura Healey has partnered with local law enforcement across the state to charge sex buyers.
Since March, the AG’s Office and the Massachusetts State Police’s Human Trafficking Unit worked with local law enforcement in Barnstable, Cambridge, Northampton and Springfield to arrest a total of 29 individuals in connection with attempting to purchase commercial sex during sting operations.
“We know that demand for commercial sex is the driving force behind sex trafficking,” said AG Healey. “We hope that this initiative raises awareness that human trafficking is not a victimless crime. It is the exploitation of human beings. We will continue to work with local law enforcement to end the victimization of vulnerable people and put an end to these crimes.”
“Massachusetts law enforcement agencies know that to stop sex trafficking, we have to stop sex buyers,” said Dhakir Warren, the Director of Network Learning and Engagement at Demand Abolition. “No buyers means no business. AG Healey’s leadership in this fight to end this exploitative industry is critical to our success in the Commonwealth. The partnership with law enforcement departments and the AG’s office mirrors the way our CEASE (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation) Network coordinates with cities throughout the country. Together, we are developing innovative tactics to identify and arrest buyers who harm society’s most vulnerable.”
“The pain, trauma, and degradation of human trafficking is happening in our communities in Massachusetts,” said Lisa Goldblatt Grace, Co-Founder & Director of My Life My Choice. “Survivors here are incredibly lucky to have a champion in AG Healey—someone who is dogged in her determination to make a difference and who understands that we must target the buyers to create real systemic change.”
“We can’t address sex trafficking without working to end prostitution,” said Cherie Jimenez, Founder of The EVA Center. “We can do this by heightening demand efforts and ensuring exit services for all who need them.”
These operations are a part of the National John Suppression Initiative (NJSI), an annual series of stings conducted by law enforcement across the country, aimed at reducing demand for commercial sex and raising awareness about the exploitation of individuals that occurs in human trafficking. Since its inception in 2011, participating law enforcement agencies from across the country have arrested more than 6,500 sex buyers and traffickers.
In December, Boston’s CEASE Network held a kickoff and training event to encourage Massachusetts law enforcement partners to reduce sex buying within their jurisdictions by participating in the NJSI.
The local operations were conducted by the MSP’s Human Trafficking Unit in conjunction with Barnstable, Cambridge, Northampton, and Springfield Police Departments.
“We are proud of the results of this collaborative initiative with the Attorney General’s Office, our law enforcement partners, and the assistance provided by the Special Investigations Unit of the Cambridge Police Department,” said Deputy Superintendent Steven DeMarco of the Cambridge Police Department. “We recognize that human trafficking is a serious crime and has no borders. Hopefully this initiative and others we support in the future will raise proper awareness of the social harm it has in our communities. We will continue to take the necessary enforcement action, advocate on this issue and encourage the public to be vigilant about reporting any related activity in the future.”
“The Northampton Police Department greatly appreciates the commitment being made by the Attorney General’s Office to combat the many faces of sex trafficking within the Commonwealth, and the assistance they provide to the victims in these types of crimes,” said Detective Lieutenant Alan Borowski of the Northampton Police Department. “We as an agency will continue to support any efforts to remove sex buyers from our community and the get the victims in these cases the help and services that they deserve.”
“The Springfield Police Department always prides itself on cooperating with different law enforcement agencies,” said Sergeant John Delaney of the Springfield Police Department. “The teamwork on this initiative was second to none. Attempting to end human and sex trafficking is a high priority with this Department. We will continue to work diligently on these crimes.”
According to research done by Demand Abolition, which used accounts from survivors, law enforcement, and online search data, sex buyers often look for purchasing opportunities during business hours or using company equipment.
In Boston, it’s estimated that more than 20,000 ads selling people for sex are posted online every month, with each ad receiving an average of 52 responses, according to research by Demand Abolition. There are over 9,000 searches for sex buying opportunities happening in Boston each day.
AG Healey has made combatting human trafficking a priority of her office. The AG’s dedicated Human Trafficking Division focuses on policy, prevention and prosecution and includes a team of specialized prosecutors, victim advocates and Massachusetts State Police troopers who handle high impact, multi-jurisdictional human trafficking investigations and prosecutions across the state. The division also works closely with other state, federal and local agencies and NGOs in the development of policy initiatives and training programs.
Through the Human Trafficking Division, the AG’s Office has charged more than 30 individuals in connection with human trafficking since the law went into effect in 2012.
The AG’s Office indicted a Boston man in March on charges of human trafficking, rape and witness intimidation in connection with supplying multiple women with drugs and trafficking them for commercial sex in communities across the state.
In February, the AG’s Office indicted four individuals in connection with trafficking women at ‘massage parlors’ in Western Massachusetts after law enforcement dismantled the criminal operations in a major multistate law enforcement takedown in December.
Also in February, two New Hampshire women were charged in connection with trafficking women for commercial sex in Massachusetts communities through an online “escort” service.
The AG’s Office continues to work with local authorities, Demand Abolition, and CEASE Network to reduce the demand of sex purchasing by criminalizing buyers and providing support services to those who are trafficked.
This initiative was led by the AG’s Human Trafficking Division, including Division Chief Elizabeth K. Keeley, Deputy Division Chief Jennifer Snook, and Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bourgeois, as well as Amy Karangekis, Deputy Regional Chief of the AG’s Western Massachusetts Office, Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Vasiliades, of the AG’s Western Massachusetts Office and Criminal Bureau and Assistant Attorney General Eric Haskell, of the AG’s Criminal Bureau. Also involved in this initiative were Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office, the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab, and the Barnstable, Cambridge, Northampton and Springfield Police Departments.