The Suffolk County Police Department has joined with the FBI to tackle human trafficking on Long Island, an emerging threat which authorities have linked to the opioid epidemic.
The team of detectives, attorneys and victim advocates is the first of its kind on Long Island. District Attorney Tim Sini says the new unit began investigating trafficking and prostitution last year, and will now be made permanent because of its success.
“Often the victims in these cases were treated like criminal defendants, historically. We’re shifting that paradigm. We’re getting them services, and we’re getting them help, and we’re trying to get their lives back on track.”
He says that female opioid addicts are often forced into prostitution to pay off their drug debts.
“Human trafficking fuels drug sales and it fuels violence, predominantly against women, which is why we have to stop treating the women involved in trafficking schemes as criminals and start treating them as victims, as they are.”
He says that these victims are more likely to cooperate in trafficking cases when they’re receiving the drug treatment and counseling services they need.
Sini says that human trafficking and prostitution are closely linked to other crimes like drug-dealing and gang violence.