‘Hidden in Plain Sight’: Dauphin County Commissioners, District Attorney, YWCA Renew Call to Stop Human Trafficking
(The map shows human trafficking hotline hotspots across the United States.)
The Dauphin County Commissioners renewed efforts this week to prevent human trafficking by promoting awareness that it impacts every community.
The commissioners hosted YWCA Greater Harrisburg officials and Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo for discussion at a public meeting about trafficking’s prevalence, indicators of the activity, and what is being done to help victims while holding offenders accountable.
“It is hidden in plain sight,” District Attorney Chardo said. “We have to fight this problem – we must, because the victims are real.”
YWCA Greater Harrisburg has 110 total shelter beds, including 18 designated for victims of trafficking – most commonly, women and children.
The YCWA Human Trafficking 24/7 Hotline is 1-800-654-1211.
“Help is only a phone call away,” Commissioner Chair Mike Pries said. “We need to get this hotline number out there.”
YWCA Greater Harrisburg CEO/President Mary Quinn said shelter beds are filled every night. Since 2014, over 400 adults and children have been helped through PAATH15, a regional collaboration to prevent trafficking.
The commissioners presented Quinn with a proclamation for National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
“You see it on TV and movies and think it is not happening here,” Commissioner Chad Saylor said. “It is happening here, and that knowledge is the first step.”
Commissioner George P. Hartwick III thanked the many great provider partners in the area committed to fighting trafficking.
“Today is a call to renew these conversations,” Hartwick said.
APPROACH TO POLICING, PROSECUTION
District Attorney Chardo said individuals charged with commercial sex trade crimes determined to be trafficking victims are offered diversion/treatment programs and a chance for charges to be expunged.
On the other hand, Chardo said, those who solicit commercial sex services are charged with misdemeanors or felonies; not offered diversion programs like ARD; and their photos are publicized.
“If we can cut off demand, we can prevent trauma inflicted on these victims,” Chardo said.
Steven Turner, a trafficking consultant for YWCA, told a story about ‘Chloe,’ a Dauphin County-area woman who was trafficked and ultimately found refuge at YWCA Greater Harrisburg.
Turner outlined a common dilemma for trafficked victims: being drawn back to the life of rape, abuse and drugs.
When ‘Chloe’ returned to the YWCA, she told staff there she spread the word about help being available. Victims at the YWCA sometimes say they were referred there by other victims.
HOTLINE NOTICES REQUIRED BY LAW TO BE POSTED
District Attorney Chardo emphasized that notices with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (in English and Spanish) are required by law to be posted at transit stations, bars, adult entertainment venues, and other locations.
The law is often ignored across the country, Chardo said.
“Many victims do not know there is help out there,” Chardo said, while asking for renewed attention on the notices and accompanying law.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett Hambright, Press Secretary, 717-780-6311; email@example.com.