Report: Pa. ranks 4th nationwide in human trafficking prosecutions | Tuesday Morning Coffee

September 22, 2020 7:04 am

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A new report sketches a vivid — and disturbing picture — of the state of human trafficking in Pennsylvania and nationwide, and the efforts by federal prosecutors to confront it and to punish those who are responsible for it.

“Human trafficking is a crime that occurs in every corner of the globe, including the United States, and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations among us. At its core, human trafficking is the coercive exploitation of another person for commercial gain,”  Lindsey N. Roberson, the senior legal counsel at the Human Trafficking Institute, the Virginia-based organization behind the report, writes in an introduction to the document.

“Because it is an economically-motivated crime that often hides behind a hierarchy of power and control that is difficult to understand, unravel, and prosecute, an effective public justice system is essential to holding traffickers accountable. In the United States, federal law known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) provides a comprehensive legal framework that criminalizes human trafficking and encourages a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach when handling these complex cases,” Roberson observed.

The report was compiled by a team of seven attorneys and six law school students who reviewed every human trafficking case in the federal court system in 2019, the report reads. In addition to reviewing court documents, press releases and news accounts, the researchers also reached out to prosecutors nationwide to “gather a comprehensive set of data that includes: type of trafficking case, profile of the trafficker, details about the trafficking scheme, age of the victim, and district where the case took place,” among other factors.

Below, a look at Pennsylvania, by the numbers.

(Image via The Human Trafficking Institute)

In 2019, the Keystone State ranked:

  • 4th nationwide for the number of active criminal human trafficking cases making their way through the state’s federal courts, with 37 active cases.
  • 9th nationwide for the number of new cases, with four new cases.
  • 4th nationwide in number of convictions with 19 defendants convicted.
  • 20th nationwide in percentage of defendants ordered to pay restitution, with five of 17 defendants ordered to pay restitution.
(Image via The Human Trafficking Institute)

In all, a total of 606 criminal human trafficking cases were moving through U.S. district courts. That tally included new cases, pending cases and cases on appeal, the report reads.

Of those cases:

  • “575 (94.9 percent) were sex trafficking cases
  • “31 (5.1 percent) were forced labor cases.
  • “One hundred and forty-five (23.9 percent) of the human trafficking cases active in 2019 were new cases, according to the report. That means prosecutors filed the first charges in 2019.
  • That’s “a 14.7 percent decline from 2018, when prosecutors filed 170 new cases
  • “The decrease follows an even bigger decline during the preceding year, from 218 new cases in 2017 to 170 in 2018. Altogether, prosecutors filed 33.5 percent fewer new cases over the past two years, which the available data indicate is the longest decline since the enactment of the TVPA in 2000.”

How to fix it? According to the report’s authors, the answer is a simple one.

“The federal government can and does deploy a growing cadre of resources to prevent individuals from falling prey to traffickers and to help survivors rebuild their lives, but one of the most effective ways to combat human trafficking is to prosecute traffickers” the report reads.

(Democratic National Committee, screen capture)

Dept. of Advertising.
President Donald Trump
 is making an appearance in Moon Township, Allegheny County at 7 p.m. tonight. Ahead of that visit, the Democratic National Committee is launching a new digital ad targeting voters around western Pennsylvania.

The spot takes Trump to task for his China trade policies and their impact on farmers. You can watch the spot, “Pennsylvania Can’t Afford Four More Years of Losing,” by clicking on the link.

“When Trump comes back to Pittsburgh, he brings four years of lost jobs, skyrocketing unemployment, and broken promises with him,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement exclusively obtained by the Capital-Star. “Voters won’t forget that when Trump lost his trade war with China, the Keystone State lost good-paying manufacturing jobs, and it’s clear he has no strategy to recover them. Meanwhile, Joe Biden has a plan to build our nation back better from Trump’s COVID economy and create more union jobs. We simply can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump.”

Ahh … politics.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
From our staff, a handy-clip-and-save guide to everything you need to know about voting — both by mail and in-person — this election season. Please share it with your friends and family.

Scranton’s Fringe Festival, which annually attracts tens of thousands of people to the Electric City, is taking a slightly different — and socially distanced — approach this year. NEPA Correspondent Patrick Abdalla has all you need to know about the revamped fest they’re calling “Fringe Under Glass.”

With the fight looming over U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is lining up in opposition. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is so far keeping his views on whether to fill the seat before the election to himselfWashington Reporter Ariana Figueroa reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz says Mitch McConnell’s lust to control the Supreme Court could well end up destroying it. And occasional correspondent Jill Sunday Bartoli, of Carlisle, Cumberland County, has had it with political ads that insult viewers’ intelligence (which rules out, well, nearly all of them). 

The Inquirer drops in on Berks County, which has picked four out of the last five winning presidential candidates.
The four counties that got a favorable federal court ruling against Gov. Tom Wolf’s business shutdown and indoor gathering limits are fighting the administration’s request for a stay of that order, the Post-Gazette reports.
As expected, Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill giving school districts the final call on interscholastic athletics, PennLive reports. Get ready for the next veto override fight.
After another shooting, people are questioning the effectiveness of the security force at the Lehigh Valley Mall, the Morning Call reports.
The Citizens-Voice checks in with restaurant owners on the first day they’ve been allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity.

Here’s your #Pittsburgh Instagram of the Day:


View this post on Instagram


#roadtrip #californiatonewyork #pittsburgh #almostthere #day8

A post shared by Wendy Katzman (@endywak) on

Residents of Temple University’s North Philly neighborhood are demanding a say in the choice of the school’s next president, WHYY-FM reports.
Kutztown University reopened and there was a spike in COVID-19 cases, area residents are wondering what’s nextKeystone Crossroads reports.
There will be some who blame the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg for not stepping down sooner. Rebecca Traister at The Cut says they’re missing the point.
Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance says President Donald Trump could be investigated for tax fraudNYMag’s Intelligencer reports.

What Goes On.
The Senate comes in at 1 p.m. today.Here’s a look at the day’s committee action in the chamber.
9 a.m., Senate Chamber: Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
10 a.m, Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Judiciary Committee
10:30 a.m., Senate Chamber: Transportation Committee
11 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Health & Human Services Committee
12 p.m., Senate Chamber: Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee
12 p.m. Hearing Room 1, North Office Building: Labor & Industry Committee
12:30 p.m., Senate Chamber: Education Committee
Off the Floor: Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee
Off the Floor: Appropriations Committee
Off the Floor: Rules & Executive Nominations Committee
Off the Floor: State Government Committee

In the House:
1 p.m,. 205 Ryan: 
House Commerce Committee
1 p.m., 140 MC: Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee
2 p.m., G50 Irvis: Democratic Policy Committee

Gov. Tom Wolf
 and state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine hold a 2:30 p.m. newser in Philly to launch the state’s new COVID-19 mobile notification app. This could be the one notification on your phone you actually don’t mind.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Sen. Gene Yaw
8 a.m.: 
Virtual fundraiser for Sen. John Sabatina
5:30 p.m: 
Virtual reception for House Minority Leader Frank Dermody
5:30 p.m.: 
Reception for Pa. Senate candidate Kevin Runey
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and, virtual or not, you’re out a seriously real $14,500 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s The Killers covering ‘Electric Blue,’ a 1980s classic from Aussie popsters Icehouse. As ever, the song remains ridiculously good.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Tampa beat Dallas 3-2 on Monday night
, tying the Stanley Cup final series at a game apiece.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.