HARRISBURG—The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association announced the formation of the Human Trafficking Response Team today at State Police Troop H in Harrisburg.
The regional response team is the first in Pennsylvania to focus on human trafficking and is comprised of law enforcement, advocates, social services and professional trade associations.
“When people hear human trafficking—whether for prostitution or labor—they sometimes think it is a problem outside their concern or something that does not happen in Central Pennsylvania,” PCAR Chief Executive Officer Delilah Rumburg said. “The fact is, human trafficking does occur in Pennsylvania. That isn’t acceptable. The response team will hold traffickers accountable for the crimes they commit within our neighborhoods and along our interstates, and extend crucial services to victims.”
Human trafficking occurs when a person is forced, coerced, threatened or deceived into performing labor or prostitution. They are forced to conform to the demands of others and are often held in servitude. Nationally, more than 100,000 U.S. citizens—mostly young girls—are trafficked for prostitution within the U.S. each year.
“As the issue of human trafficking has become more understood, prosecutors are focused on education, training and cooperative efforts like this response team to help law enforcement and social services better recognize cases of human trafficking and best respond to the needs of victims through the criminal justice and social services systems,” said Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico, Jr. who also serves as president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. “District Attorneys understand that prosecuting cases of human trafficking is different than prosecuting prostitution, child rape, or other sex crimes, but just as important.”
A successful effort to combat human trafficking requires cooperation throughout the response team, but also from the general public, according to Captain William Horgas, Commanding Officers of Troop H, Pennsylvania State Police.
“The State Police are on the frontlines in the identifying cases of human trafficking, but we also need the public’s help,” said Captain Horgas. “We encourage anyone who has witnessed suspicious activity or suspects someone is being forced or coerced into prostitution anywhere to immediately call law enforcement authorities.”
The task force is comprised of district attorneys from Adams, Franklin, Perry, Cumberland and Dauphin counties, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the Pennsylvania State Police, local law enforcement, US Department of Homeland Security, Survivors, Inc., YWCA of Carlisle Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Services of Cumberland County, YWCA – Violence Intervention Prevention Program, WIN/Victim Services,Children & Youth, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, the Pennsylvania Motor Trucking Association and the LGBT Community Center Coalition of Central Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is the oldest anti-sexual violence coalition in the U.S. The organization represents 51 sexual assault centers that serve victims in the state’s 67 counties. Each year these centers provide confidential services, at no charge, to more than 30,000 men, women and children affected by sexual abuse.
The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is comprised of approximately 1,000 members and is charged with providing uniformity and efficiency in the discharge of duties and functions of Pennsylvania’s 67 District Attorneys and their assistants. Since its founding in 1912, the Association has dutifully sponsored extensive training programs and reported legal and legislative developments of importance to Pennsylvania prosecutors. In addition, the Association is often called upon by legislative leaders at the state and national level to address public policy issues and efforts which will impact the prosecution of criminal cases, victim rights and public safety.