Montgomery County accepts funds to raise awareness of sexually exploited minors

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Matt Ossenfort

FONDA — In New York state, minors who are sexually exploited for commercial purposes are victims, not criminals, and Montgomery County has received grant funding to educate the public about that fact.

The Public Safety Committee of the Montgomery County Legislature has voted to approve receiving $23,000 in funds from the New York state Office of Children and Family Services for 2017 for the purpose of raising awareness of human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

“We’re going to do some outreach and educational awareness on the topic of human trafficking for underage people. This is something I don’t think people are aware happens, and it does happen around here,” Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said.

In 2008, New York state passed the Safe Harbour for Exploited Children Act, which officially recognizes that minors who are commercially, sexually exploited are perpetrators of crimes, whereas before the act, in some cases, they might have been charged with various crimes.

The Safe Harbour N.Y. Program is aimed at preventing human trafficking, supporting child-serving professionals in identifying and providing services to survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation and raising awareness by providing training and technical assistance, according to the resolution approved by the County Legislature’s public safety committee.

“The state offers some grant funding that promotes awareness, but also, as you move into year two or three and beyond there are additional programs that you can look at. We’ve not committed to any of that. The first year is a $23,000 grant to do some outreach. We might be hosting an event to try to raise awareness,” Ossenfort said. “It’s not a large amount of money, but I think it’s an issue that certainly deserves some attention. What I was told, when I was pitched the project, is that there was a case in Herkimer County where there was a girl that was taken to California, and having this program in place really helped them manage this situation; and, ultimately, I believe, the girl was returned back home.”

By Chad Fleck

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