Saratoga Springs

Wanted: Saratoga Springs Salvation Army worker to address human trafficking

Salvation Army Corps. officer Trish Smouse, left, and Anti-Human Trafficking Case Manager Sarah Fritch are seen outside their building on Woodlawn Avenue in Saratoga Springs on Nov. 5, 2021.
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Salvation Army Corps. officer Trish Smouse, left, and Anti-Human Trafficking Case Manager Sarah Fritch are seen outside their building on Woodlawn Avenue in Saratoga Springs on Nov. 5, 2021.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Human trafficking is such a concern in the area, the Salvation Army’s Saratoga Springs Corps is seeking a second worker to address the issue.

A member of the New York State Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking, the Salvation Army recently hired Sarah Fritch into the role of anti-human trafficking case manager, and it is presently seeking applicants for an anti-human trafficking clinical specialist to promote individual and group counseling services.

As part of the task force, the nonprofit agency is working with local and federal law enforcement and non-governmental organizations to provide comprehensive services for victims of human trafficking, Captain Bree Barker of the Salvation Army Saratoga Springs Corps said Friday.

As of Thursday, the Salvation Army has served 48 victims of human trafficking this year and trained 577 service professionals.

Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor of commercial sex act.

Tourist destinations such as the Spa City and Lake George can be considered “hotspots” for it, Barker said in an interview.

“It certainly is, especially in places where there are a lot of sporting events — the track or harness racing — and then just a lot of gambling,” Barker said, referencing Schenectady’s Rivers Casino.

Other hotspots are where major highways merge, such as the Northway and I-90, Barker said.

The Salvation Army, along with other sub-awardees received grant funding from the state and federal government to provide support to victims of human trafficking who are youths. The agency has had a dedicated employee for anti-human trafficking efforts for at least 18 months.

“We provide case management, wraparound services, trainings to places like police departments and schools and hospitals and awareness, and then some preventative services as well through outreach programs,” Barker said.

“When we identify young people who may be victims or certainly at risk, they’ve been able to work with those families,” Barker said.

“They are available whenever we have a call for somebody that maybe is a certified victim or even just a possible victim, they can work with them and they can have someone they can rely on they can call. They can reach out to to be able to connect them to services that we already have here or services that exist in other areas.”

The Salvation Army works with various hotels and motels — mostly in the Lake George area, but also in Spa City — to provide preventative outreach.

“We provide makeup wipes and soap bars to hotels — big chains, small mom-and-pop hotels and motels, the full gamut – and on the back of those items is a sticker with the national hotline which also links to us,” Barker said.

In instances of human trafficking — particularly sex trafficking — a victim is likely to only have time to themselves while in the bathroom, she said.

“So those pieces (wipes and soap bars) are strategically placed so that if the John were to check the room, you wouldn’t notice the stick because it’d be on the bottom but when the individual opened up the soap to use they would see the sticker on the back and might be able to reach out for help.”

Local data points are hard to ascertain, Barker said, because of the hidden nature of the crime.

Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said the department hadn’t had any cases of human trafficking in recent years. A Saratoga Springs Police Department spokesman couldn’t be reached.

“It is something that’s very prevalent, but it’s quite hard to see,” Barker said. “But for anyone interested in learning a little more, we offer trainings to be able to recognize some of the red flags that you wouldn’t maybe normally recognize as trafficking, but you would easily see in an individual, and so being able to identify those red flags can really help to save a life.

The most recently available state and national data are from 2019.

New York had 454 trafficking cases (312 for sex trafficking, 52 for labor trafficking, 23 involving both, and 67 that weren’t specified) in 2019, the most recent stats available from the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

A shade more than 800 victims, 173 traffickers and 83 trafficking businesses were identified, according to hotline data.

Nearly 700 arrests and 420 convictions were made for sex trafficking spanning 2008 to 2019 in New York.

In the same time frame, 45 arrests and 34 convictions were made for labor trafficking.

There were 11,500 “situations” of human trafficking nationwide that were identified through the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2019, an increase from 10,915 situations in 2018, and 8,774 in 2017.

Over a longer period, there were 63,380 situations of human trafficking identified through the national hotline from December 2007 to December 2019. Situations of human trafficking may involve more than one victim.

The hotline states there were 22,326 victims and survivors identified in 2019, a nearly 20% increase in victims and survivors who contacted the hotline directly.

Direct contacts to the hotline are meaningful, the agency, said, because the trafficking hotline does not contact law enforcement or take action on behalf of the victim or survivor without that person’s consent.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

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