Monday, March 31, 2014

Voorhees man charged in Deptford with human trafficking bust

Voorhees man charged in Deptford with human trafficking bust

Joe Green/South Jersey TimesBy Joe Green/South Jersey Times 
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on March 26, 2014 at 12:44 PM, updated March 26, 2014 at 6:07 PM
murray copy.jpgRobert J. Murray
DEPTFORD TWP. — A Voorhees Township man was charged Tuesday with human trafficking and other offenses after he allegedly beat and forced a woman to perform sex acts on men while holding her captive in a hotel, authorities said.
Robert Murray, 40, was arrested and jailed in default of $300,000 bail.
The investigation leading to the charges began when the victim, a 26-year-old South Carolina woman, called Deptford police on Tuesday from the hotel, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office (GCPO) spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld said.
Weisenfeld declined to identify the hotel in which the woman was allegedly kept, saying there was no reason to believe management there was involved in the crime and authorities didn't want to sully the hotel's reputation.
The woman said she’d been held against her will there for a week. She’d been forced every day to perform sex acts on many men for money, she told investigators.
She knew her captor only as “Lotto,” she said, adding he threatened he’d beat her if she didn’t obey him. The woman had what the prosecutor’s office called “numerous injuries consistent with beatings.”
She also told police she was trying to escape the hotel while Lotto was away. Authorities identified Lotto as Murray and arrested him on active warrants when he returned to the hotel.
Other than human trafficking, Murray was charged with promoting prostitution and assault. When arrested, authorities said, he had $1,540 in cash with him. Police seized the money as well.
The alleged victim told investigators she’d come to the area with other women from North Carolina and was turned over to Murray.
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton praised the joint investigation involving his office and Deptford police, as well as New Jersey’s human trafficking law enacted last year.
“The new human trafficking law provides a valuable tool for law enforcement to vigorously prosecute those who engage in this type of exploitation,” Dalton said.
“My thanks to the Deptford Township Police Department and the GCPO major crimes unit for the outstanding work on this case.”
Deptford Police Chief William Hanstein pointed out that human trafficking is a widespread problem.
“This investigation started as a 911 call for assistance to our officers, who assisted the victim, and ultimately ended in an arrest,” Hanstein said.
“Human trafficking is not just an urban issue. As a result, law enforcement agencies statewide are working together in an effort to combat this crime against the vulnerable.”
Weisenfeld, citing concern for the alleged victim's safety, declined to comment on treatment or services she was receiving, and on whether she had received help going back to South Carolina.
When asked if any others could face charges, such as johns at the hotel, and whether there might be other victims in the case, Weisenfeld said only Murray had been charged as of Wednesday and the investigation was ongoing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Are You Unknowingly Supporting Human Trafficking?

Are You Unknowingly Supporting Human Trafficking?

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I live in Orlando, which is ranked third in the United States for human trafficking. I moved from Los Angeles, the number two city for human trafficking. Yet, like most people, I know amazingly little about human trafficking.

In Los Angeles, massage parlors are surprisingly common. One night one of my roommates came home looking relaxed and happy. She entered the living room and began to recount the story of her amazing massage for only 10 dollars.
“What?” another roommate said. “How long was the massage?”
“An hour,” she replied.
Then the onslaught of questions began.
“What was the building like?”
“Where were the masseuses from?”
“Did you have to pay cash?”
Turns out, my roommate had unknowingly walked into a trafficking situation. Massage parlors are common “fronts” for prostitution or women trafficked into sexual slavery in larger cities. She didn’t mean to, but she most likely funded sexual slavery.
How do you know if that’s ever happened to you and how can you avoid it in the future?
If the Cost of Services is Cheaper Than Normal, Pay Attention
As a general rule of thumb: If the deal that you’re getting seems too good to be true, it probably is. Someone, somewhere, is paying for your bargain. Think about it: if the average hourly rate for a massage in Southern California ranges from $75 to $145, how can a massage be only $10 for an entire hour? Could there be something else going on behind the scenes? Using your common sense could save lives.
Trafficking as a term seems larger than life and intangible, so it helps me to think about it as “compelled services” or anything another person is not willingly doing. It’s forced labor. And it’s not only found in the sex industry. Forced labor comes in many forms and faces.
If You’ve Ever Bought These 3 Common Things, You’ve Probably Supported Slavery
1. Fruits and Vegetables: The production and harvesting of produce is a common area for trafficked people or forced labor. The best way around it is to know the source. Become a locavore, a person who purchases food that’s locally grown or certified “Fair Trade.” It’s more expensive, but someone needs to pay the price for justice.
2. Chocolate: Have you ever eaten cheap chocolate that wasn’t labeled fair trade? We all have. The connection between cocoa farms and slave labor is well-documented and ongoing. In “Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices,” Julie Clawson writes that there’s a market for “cheap chocolate” which results in slave labor. Slave free chocolate exists, you have to seek it out and be willing to pay more.
3. Clothes: How can you be sure your clothes aren’t made in sweatshops by women and children working 12-hour days in atrocious conditions? Most of us don’t know. Find clothing companies that have responsible policies both in the U.S. and overseas. Their factories actually enforce the “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) policies that come from headquarters. People are treated humanely, not forced or coerced. You can also shop second-hand from thrift stores or places like Plato’s Closet. That way, you’re not putting new money into funding unjust labor practices.
What are some other ways that you “consume” responsibly? I’d love to hear about them  in the comments section below.

This Week Only: Pick up a cause product that helps fight human trafficking: HERE

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Medical Legal Connections in Kansas for the Benefit of Trafficked Persons

Feds recognize Kansas hospital for groundbreaking work in helping human trafficking victims

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WICHITA, Kansas — A Kansas hospital has been recognized for its work in training health care professionals to identify and help victims of human trafficking.
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom presented a special community service award Monday to Via Christi Health in Wichita.
The hospital's human trafficking initiative has already trained more than 125 doctors, nurses and other caregivers with a four-step protocol on what to look for and how to help victims.
Grissom says human trafficking is a crime that hides in plain sight. He says Via Christi Health is leading the nation by training its health care professions to recognize warning signs and offer victims assistance that could save lives.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Does the Moral Consensus on Human Trafficking Apply to Economics?

The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of ViolenceOver at the Kern Pastors Network blog, Greg Forster uses The Locust Effect – Gary Haugen’s new book on violence, poverty, and human trafficking – as a springboard for discussing the reach and interconnectedness of various Christian commitments.
“The moral commitments that mobilize evangelicals to fight human trafficking have much broader application,” he writes, “and point to the possibility of a larger Christian vision for the public square.”
Yet, for whatever reason, we continue to stall when it comes to expanding, integrating, and applying things such a direction:
These days, trafficking is the only public issue evangelical leaders are comfortable identifying as a gospel imperative. As a result, our people are highly mobilized and accomplishing a lot. On every other public issue, however, we’re paralyzed by endless debates. There are no shared commitments, nothing we’re allowed to agree on; there is only division between the Right and the Left. So we produce a lot of heated rhetoric, and nothing gets done…
…This perpetual division over everything has to change if the gospel is going to speak to the culture, if Christians are going to have an impact in the public square, and if local churches are going to be forces for flourishing in their communities. The human trafficking issue proves there is a way out of this dilemma, because it shows that we do have shared moral commitments. “The Locust Effect” is a good example of how to apply those commitments beyond just trafficking. The Kern Pastors Network, the Oikonomia Network, and others who are working to integrate faith, work, and economics can carry these principles even further.
Forster proceeds accordingly, applying such commitments to the realms of work and economics.
“Bringing justice, dignity, and flourishing to a culture starts with upholding the equal dignity of all human beings,” he writes, which implies plenty for how we orient our approach to economic engagement. “One thing this requires is that everyone’s rights of work, property, and exchange are equally protected,” he continues, which leads us to “a much broader set of public questions.”
Examining the life and contributions of Josiah Wedgwood, the 18th-century businessman and abolitionist, Forster teases out some of these questions, eventually concluding with the following answer:
If the church is against slavery, it must be for freedom – not anarchy or libertarianism, but “institutions that recognize the fundamental dignity and worth of all people,” in [P.J.] Hill’s fine phrase. If the church is not in favor of that, then in the long run, it’s not really opposed to slavery. When the faith and work movement says that all people are made to be stewards of the world, this implies we need a social order that treats all people as stewards – stewards of their own lives, stewards of their relationships with one another, stewards of the shared concerns of their civil communities, and stewards of the whole world, through the vast, global web of communication and exchange.
Over and over again the Israelites were reminded: “The Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 7:8). Let’s follow his example and work for a social order that upholds the equal dignity of all people.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Slavery Remembrance Day

On Slavery Remembrance Day, Solomon Northrup's Descendants Raise Awareness About Human Trafficking

They're participating in a Google Hangout on Northrup's legacy and modern forced labor.

An illustration of Solomon Northup. (Photo: Creative Commons/Wikimedia)


Staff Writer Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at GOOD.
At the 2014 Academy Awards, 12 Years a Slave, the story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, racked up the accolades: best picture, best adapted screenplay, and best supporting actress. Now that we've seen Northrup's story at our local multiplex, and it has won Hollywood's biggest awards, are we finished with stories about slavery? While some Americans don't understand why we have to talk about it anymore and wish everyone would just "move on," the United Nations doesn't feel the same way.
Every year the U.N. designates March 25 asInternational Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The day honors the more than 15 million men, women, and children who suffered and died because of slavery. The U.N. also aims to raise "awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today."
Two of Northrup's descendants—Irene Northup-Zahos, a 72-year-old retired nurse who's Northrup's great-great-granddaughter, and Melissa Howell, Northrup's 42-year-old great-great-great-granddaughter—are teaming with the International Labour Organization and journalist Holly Young for a Google Hangout about Northrup's legacy and the horrors of modern-day slavery: Forced labor and human trafficking across the world. 
According to the ILO's 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour, about "21 million people are victims of forced labor—11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys." Like Solomon Northrup, they're "trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave."
Tune in to the hangout today at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Children on the Run

As crime and violence have increased dramatically in Mexico and Central America in recent years, UNHCR has tracked a notable increase in the number of asylum-seekers—both children and adults—particularly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala lodging claims in the region. While the United States is receiving the majority of the new asylum claims, combined, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize, documented a 432% increase in the number of asylum applications from citizens of these three countries.

Among these numbers is a troubling new trend. The number of children from these countries, making the treacherous journey alone and unaccompanied, has doubled each year since 2011, and the U.S. government estimated—and is on track to reach—60,000 children arriving to U.S. soil seeking safe haven in this fiscal year. While the number of children from Mexico has far outpaced the number of children from any one of the three Central American countries, most of these children are promptly returned to Mexico after no more than a day or two in the custody of the US authorities making it even more difficult to obtain a full picture of who these children are and why they are coming to the U.S.

My grandmother is the one who told me to leave.
She said: “If you don’t join, the gang will shoot you.
If you do, the rival gang or the cops will shoot you.
But if you leave, no one will shoot you.”
—Kevin, Honduras, Age 17

UNHCR’s latest report, Children on the Run, unveils the humanitarian impact of the situation by analyzing the reasons that 404 unaccompanied children gave to a team of researchers for why they left their homes and makes recommendations for a way forward.

Friday, March 21, 2014

More Housing For Trafficked People: Selah Freedom Opens Doors to Second Safe House

Selah Freedom Opens Doors to Second Safe House
The nonprofit organization will now serve more human trafficking victims than ever before

SARASOTA, Fla. – March 20, 2014 – Selah Freedom, a Florida-based nonprofit organization committed to confronting the issue of human trafficking, is preparing to open the doors to a second safe house to transform more human trafficking victims into survivors.
The second home will be located in Hillsborough County, expanding upon the organization’s reach from Manatee and Sarasota counties. This is a brilliant move that will expand the organization’s presence and power to fight human trafficking, a $32 billion criminal industry.
“Sadly, ever since the doors opened to our first safe house, we had to turn countless women away due to a lack of space,” stated Elizabeth Melendez Fisher, President and CEO of Selah Freedom. “With the addition of this new home in Hillsborough County, we are grateful for the opportunity to help more victims become survivors.”
The safe house, set to open its doors to victims this spring, is being furnished by various local Major League Baseball families. While in the house, residents will go through Selah’s restorative program, which lasts for a year. Throughout this program, the women learn basic life skills, take educational courses, have sessions with therapist Dr. Jason Quintal and have one-on-one interaction with human trafficking survivor and advocate, Connie Rose.
“We feel it is essential to keep growing so we can serve more human trafficking victims. Now, more than ever, any donation to Selah Freedom is needed. With the help of donations of any amount, we are able to expand our programs to get these young women off the streets, into our safe homes and return them to society as better people,” stated Fisher.
Selah Freedom raised $60,000 in January alone, which will help fund the programing for both safe houses as well as expand the services the nonprofit provides. Additionally, the Pentecost Foundation has granted the nonprofit with a second $250,000 matching grant challenge to help raise money to fund Selah’s expansion and effort to stop human trafficking.
To donate to and support Selah Freedom, visit, email or call 941-302-2299.
About Selah Freedom
Based in Sarasota, Fla., Selah Freedom’s sole focus is ending human trafficking and sexual exploitation on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Started in 2010 with guidance and mentoring from Atlanta-based and nationally renowned, Wellspring Living, Selah Freedom offers survivors the life-changing services and tools necessary to free themselves from this type of exploitation through support and recovery groups, as well as a holistic residential restorative program. For more information, or to donate, visit