Human trafficking has cut a path through the heart of Bucks County, where government officials, at all levels, are struggling to define, identify and combat the problem.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said Bucks must come to terms with evidence of teenage victims who have been lured into prostitution by the promise of easy money and later controlled by pimps often posing as their boyfriends. “The public does not understand how big a problem this is,” said Toomey. “People think this kind of problem and victimization happens in other places, in Third World countries, and that it certainly doesn’t happen in Bucks County, and, tragically, they’re wrong. It does happen. And, we need to do all we can to stop this.”
Network of Victims Assistance (NOVA) executive director, Barbara Clark, said her organization is dealing mostly with “domestic human trafficking.” “We’re not seeing a lot of international trafficking,” Clark said. “I think there are some of those cases in Bucks County, but they’re being handled by the feds and we’re not notified about them.”
The FBI needs to make human trafficking a separate crime statistic, and the agencies can use those statistics to apply for federal funding to combat it, Bucks County Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, of Middletown said. “It is a more prevalent crime than most people believe,” Fitzpatrick, R-8 added. “Some in the public, to their credit, are working to combat it.”At the county level, officials said they could soon be able to provide a refuge for human trafficking victims. County commissioners Chairman Robert Loughery said Bucks may use properties acquired by the county as a refuge for these victims. “There’s a lot of things that are going on right now behind the scenes,” Loughery said.
Victims are urged to call the Network of Victims Assistance 24-hour hotline at 1-800-675-6900 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Learn more at James McGinnis’ Bucks County Courier Times article: Bucks County struggles to define, combat human trafficking.