CBS 6 Investigates: Why the Capital Region is attracting sex traffickers

Originally published on WRGB CBS 6 www.cbs6albany.com

ALBANY, NY (WRGB) Tonight, a federal agent explains why Albany is attracting sex traffickers.

“It is a big issue here.”

Right now, federal authorities are working sex trafficking cases right under our noses in the Capital Region.

“In the Capital Region a lot of it is forced labor trafficking, a lot of it is underage girls being forced into prostitution, or girls being forced into massage parlors. There is also traffickers here who will target girls here who will try to get them hooked on opioids or other drugs.”

Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly heads Homeland Security Investigations for Upstate New York, covering 48 counties. He drove from Buffalo to speak with CBS 6’s Anne McCloy about an issue close to his heart.

“Last year, we had 17 arrests for human trafficking in this area just in the Albany area,” Kelly said.

Kelly says the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has made sex trafficking enforcement a top priority. In 2017, he says HSI opened 1500 cases and made 2,000 arrests for human trafficking worldwide.

“As far as investigating any type of criminal activity, human trafficking is at the top of the list, because there’s a human element to it,” Kelly said.

He explained to Anne why traffickers are coming to the New York State Capital.

“You’re right off I-90 and I-87 it’s really the heart of New York State if you look at it. There’s a lot of conferences here, there’s an easy conduit here from New York City,” Kelly said.

In order to stop trafficking, Kelly says the public needs know how to identify a victim. These are major signs:

  • Dishevelled appearance
  • Reluctant to talk
  • Moving in groups
  • A person who appears to be controlled by another

“I think if you’re out there and you see something say something, but more importantly do something, because that life depends on it,” Kelly said.

Special Agent Kelly says his agency is now doing education workshops with hotels and other businesses on how to identify trafficking, and report it.

They’re also working closely with a network of non-profit organisations to help victims, including the Santa Marta Group, an anti-trafficking organisation involving the Pope.