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Mayor’s Column: National Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Mayor Collen Bianco Bezich spreads awareness for National Human Trafficking Prevention Month by sharing tips on how to recognize and fight it.

As Director of Public Affairs & Public Safety, one of my goals in writing my weekly Mayor’s  Column is to highlight public safety concerns. This week, I’m focusing on human trafficking. 

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January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and while this may be an uncomfortable topic for some to address, the reality is that human trafficking occurs in all communities – including suburbs like Haddonfield. As many parents noted on social media earlier this month, arrests have been made in neighboring communities in recent weeks, leaving many feeling unsettled. 

What is human trafficking? As Chief Jason Cutler and I have discussed with concerned residents, human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor and/or commercial sex acts from adults and children. Every year, thousands of adults and children are trafficked worldwide. There are more than 1700 pending FBI cases as of January 5, 2022. 

More than 20 years ago, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 memorialized the United States’ commitment to combating human trafficking domestically and internationally. In 2010, by presidential proclamation, President Obama declared January “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month” and every year since, each president has followed this tradition, with President Biden proclaiming January 2022 as “National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.”  

If you’re like me, you’re wondering what we can do right here in Haddonfield to prevent human trafficking and support survivors. The U.S. Department of State has provided a list of “20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking” on its website, several of which are listed below (https://www.state.gov/20-ways-you-can-help-fight-human-trafficking/): 

Learn the indicators of human trafficking by visiting https://www.state.gov/identify-and assist-a-trafficking-victim/ or attending a training.  

  • If you believe someone may be a victim of human trafficking, call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or Text 233733
  • Be a conscientious & informed consumer. Find out more about who may have picked your tomatoes or made your clothes at ResponsibleSourcingTool.org. 
  • Encourage your local school district to include human trafficking in their curriculum and to develop protocols for identifying and reporting suspected cases of human trafficking. 
  • Think about whether your workplace is trauma-informed and reach out to management to urge implementation of trauma-informed business practices. 
  • Mentor a young person. Traffickers often target people who are going through a difficult time or who lack strong support systems. 
  • Parents & Caregivers: Learn how human traffickers often target and recruit youth, and who to turn to for help in potentially dangerous situations. 
  • Youth: Learn how to recognize traffickers’ recruitment tactics, how to safely navigate out of a suspicious or uncomfortable situations, and how to reach out for help at any time. 

Human trafficking disproportionately impacts racial and ethnic minorities, women & girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, vulnerable migrants, and other historically marginalized and underserved communities, so, it’s important to connect prevention to broader efforts to advance equity and justice.

Locally, the Center for Family Services (CFFS) is one of the organizations working to combat human trafficking and provide consistent, compassionate support to survivors and their families. CFFS provides case management and crisis intervention services, referrals to safe housing, and connections to treatment programs (including care that addresses substance use/abuse), in Camden, Cumberland, and Gloucester Counties. 

24-Hour Hotline  

The CFFS team is available to support victims and survivors of human trafficking with counseling, referrals, and information via its 24-hour hotline. All calls are free and confidential: 1-800-225-0196 / 1-866-295-7378. 

Additional Information, including training resources, are also available online:  https://www.centerffs.org/serv/human-trafficking-services 

To those who have expressed concern about human trafficking, thank you for coming forward to communicate with law enforcement about this important issue! We remain available to address this and other concerns of all Borough residents, business owners and visitors in the months to come. If you would like to suggest a public safety topic for this column, please email me: cbbezich@haddonfield-nj.gov

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