WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Three members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators officially thanked and recognized the Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force for its first year of operation at a press conference held Monday at My Sister’s House in White Plains.
Chairperson Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), Majority Leader Pete Harckham (D-Katonah) and Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh), who chairs the board of legislators’ community services committee, congratulated the task force, which is spearheaded by the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), My Sister’s Place, the Pound Ridge Police Department and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.
The task force recently kicked off the start of its second year by unveiling a plan to develop a multi-agency anti-trafficking protocol.
Among the members of the anti-trafficking task force honored and thanked by the legislators were its founders—Pound Ridge Town Council Member Ali Boak, co-founder and president of International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA), Audrey Stone, second deputy district attorney and chief of special prosecutions for the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, Pound Ridge Chief David Ryan, and Karen Cheeks-Lomax, executive director of My Sister’s Place.
“The board of legislators truly values the work being done here to identify and hold traffickers accountable, and help victims find justice and repair their lives,” Harckham said.
Since its inception last year, the Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force has been conducting proactive investigations of sex and labor trafficking crimes while collaborating with local, state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies. It has identified victims of trafficking and supported prosecution of the trafficking crimes through its enhancement of community reporting of the crimes, thanks to specific training and outreach activities.
A sizeable immigrant population working in a variety of industries and businesses around Westchester make the county a prime location for trafficking, the force said, so it has provided a number of police departments in Westchester with all-day training and awareness programs during this past year. The efforts have resulted in the identification of several potential trafficking cases, the force said.
“It is reassuring to know that the anti-trafficking task force has accomplished so much in just its first year,” Williams said.
The Westchester Legislators presented proclamations to Boak, Cheeks-Lomax, Stone and Ryan that thanked them as individuals, and on behalf of the organizations they represent, for their work on the task force.
“On behalf of the entire task force, we’re humbled by your recognition of all of our efforts,” Boak said. “The Westchester County Anti-Trafficking Task Force will continue to be an aggressive force in the community to raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking.”
According to Cheeks-Lomax, My Sister’s Place assisted about 87 alleged trafficking victims in 2011, up from about 45 in the previous year.