Joint DHS-Montclair State program will aid law enforcement with human-trafficking cases

From left, HSI-Newark Special Agent in Charge Ricky Patel and Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell.

The Global Center on Human Trafficking (GCHT) at Montclair State University and the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark office signed a Memorandum of Understanding Jan. 25 for the development of a web-based application and website to aid in the fight against human trafficking.

The agreement was signed during a special event at the HSI-Newark’s field office and featured remarks from Ricky J. Patel, HSI Newark special agent in charge; Jonathan Koppell, Montclair State University president; Ali Boak, director for Global Center on Human Trafficking; Phillip R. Sellinger, United States attorney for the District of New Jersey; Col. Patrick J. Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police; Esther Suarez, Hudson County prosecutor; Theodore N. Stephens II, Essex County prosecutor; Fritz G. Frage, Newark director of Public Safety.

The event closed with the story of human trafficking survivor and victim advocate, Treia Boozier.

The digital resources will be designed to provide information and resources to New Jersey law enforcement agencies that may encounter victims of human trafficking.

Under the partnership, the GCHT and HSI-Newark will collaborate to ensure new resources include best practices, current contact information and points of contact for law enforcement agencies, anonymized data that will be used to develop research and strategic initiatives developed by the GCHT and HSI-Newark’s Center for Combating Human Trafficking.

The goal is for the application and website to become a national model that may be used to develop similar resources in other states. Development of the resources will be launched this spring and the initiative is slated to be piloted in the fall.

New Jersey is considered a hub for human trafficking based on its location near several major metropolitan areas including New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, both sex and labor trafficking occur in New Jersey.

“We are so pleased to partner with HSI-Newark and to have their expertise as the leading federal law enforcement agency charged with addressing human trafficking,” Boak said. “Sadly, traffickers largely operate with impunity as the vast majority of trafficking cases are not investigated or prosecuted. This initiative will equip law enforcement with an app that can be run on their tablet or smartphone, putting human trafficking training, education, resources and important contact information at their fingertips”.

“Human trafficking is a heinous and unthinkable crime, involving investigative challenges which are extremely difficult to navigate in today’s world,” Patel said. “HSI Newark is proud to join the Montclair State University Global Center on Human Trafficking in this initiative to provide law enforcement agencies that may encounter victims of human trafficking, with available victim services and additional human trafficking information throughout the State of New Jersey. Collaboration is the best way to achieve our goals to investigate traffickers and connect survivors of trafficking to the services they deserve.”

Meanwhile, Suarez, who attended as a representative of all 21 county prosecutors, spoke very highly of the new program and offered it broad support.

“Human trafficking is a heinous crime of exploitation that knows no boundaries, and far too often goes unrecognized or unreported,” Suarez told The Observer. “On behalf of the 21 county prosecutors of New Jersey, we thank Homeland Security Investigations Newark and the Global Center on Human Trafficking at Montclair State University for developing this tool to better assist law enforcement in the fight against human trafficking and we are prepared support this initiative in all ways necessary.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.