Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and Deputy Police Chief William Cochrane announced today a Human Trafficking Enforcement and Education Initiative.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni stated, “Law enforcement is increasingly addressing human trafficking by examining the root causes of those being victimized. Often substance abuse and extreme threats of violence are at the center of it. In recognizing this, law enforcement has increased the pursuit of individuals who are profiting from those they force out onto the street and those who choose to solicit.” District Attorney Gulluni went on to say, “Strict enforcement of the law coupled with education will have an appreciable impact on the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”
The initiative, a collaboration of multiple state and local law enforcement agencies consisting of: the Hampden District Attorney’s Office, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, the Massachusetts State Police, the Massachusetts Office of Probation, and the Springfield Police Department. This partnership is in addition to the on-going efforts and partnerships with both the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations centering on human trafficking.
The initiative calls for a multi-faceted approach comprising of increased enforcement and education.
Education will come in the form of public information campaign (currently under development), which will be rolled out in the coming months. Additionally, the CARD program (Community Approach to Reduce Demand) will be made available to offenders through the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department. Offenders will be given the opportunity to participate and learn how this is not a victimless crime.
Currently the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department also offers AISS, which assists victims of human trafficking.
Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi stated, “I strongly believe we need a two pronged approach to address this exploitation and human trafficking of individuals. First, is to crack down on the “Johns” looking for sex, which will reduce or stop demand, and second to offer much needed social services for those individuals being exploited in this process.” Sheriff Cocchi went on to say, “Our AISS program is already assisting individuals who have been trafficked by gangs and others. We help them get away from this exploitation and assist them to build successful and productive lives. So many are addicted to drugs and are driven into the sex trade to feed this addiction. We can and do help these people get back to stable lives.”
The public information campaign will be conducted in two parts. A proactive message letting the public know human trafficking is a high priority of local law enforcement as well as publically providing the identities of those arrested for solicitation.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno stated, “Our soon to be released public service announcement, “We are Looking for You”, will put offenders on notice. Once we see you, so will everyone else.” Mayor Sarno stated further, “I would like to thank all agencies involved as well as residents and business leaders for stepping up and working with law enforcement to tackle this problem from every angle.”
The increased enforcement will comprise of frequent and random operations pursuing offenders who are soliciting.
Deputy Chief William Cochrane stated, “Our stepped up operations have already begun. These arrests, while effective, have not been enough of a deterrent to stop the demand, which is why we’ve developed a multi-faceted approach. We are letting the public know that we understand this problem exists, we will continue to make arrests, and now we will be sure that everyone knows who they are.”
This effort has evolved from the Springfield Police Department’s C-3 South End Initiative. Human trafficking was identified by neighborhood stakeholders as a persistent issue negatively affecting the quality-of-life for residents in the South End Neighborhood. Subsequently, a multi-agency partnership formed under the leadership of members from the Springfield Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police, to effectively address human trafficking at the local level.
Surrounding municipalities will be invited to join this initiative and operationally adapt it to their specific conditions.