June 10, 2015
At a SOAP outreach event in Morris and Essex Counties on May 31, volunteers distributing Missing Persons posters helped one hotel employee identify a missing 14-year old girl.
Another group of volunteers became deeply suspicious of several employees at another establishment, and the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NJCAHT) has since been in touch with the Essex County Prosecutor’s office about possible trafficking taking place on the premises.
These breakthroughs may seem small given the enormity of the challenge. But in fact, any clue that may lead to the rescue of a trafficked person is incredibly valuable to the Coalition (of which the Community Foundation is a member) and local law enforcement.
Take the recent example in Secaucus. A similarly small tip – that photos of a minor were circulating on “escort service” backpage.com – led to last month’s arrest of four men and the rescue of two girls, 14 and 18-years old. The men are being charged with human trafficking, conspiracy, and promoting prostitution of a minor.
When the Community Foundation of New Jersey and several committed fundholders first got involved in the fight against human trafficking nearly two years ago, we knew that eliminating this scourge would require the help of hundreds of volunteers over many months – even years.
We are grateful for NJCAHT’s vigilance, and to the determined volunteers who continue to raise awareness and help law enforcement make more rescues.
“SOAP is a great example of partnership,” said Mandy Bristol-Leverett, of NJCAHT. “One donation from the Community Foundation of New Jersey in the summer of 2013 has reached New Jersey hotels in 2014 and 2015, and will continue to reach hotels statewide in 2016 through the hands of New Jersey volunteers.”