“The sex trafficking and prostitution operation dismantled by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, NYPD and federal authorities is yet another example of the barbaric treatment trafficked women are subjected to for the profit of ruthless pimps.
“It also underscores the need to reclassify sex trafficking as a violent felony. in recognition of the brutality of the crime and the punishment it warrants. I recently introduced a bill in the New York State Senate that would make sex trafficking a violent felony and increase the minimum jail sentence to five years. The minimum sentence currently is one to three years.
Inside City Hall’s Errol Louis spoke with State Sen. Jose Peralta from Queens and the Executive Director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Jack Friedman, about how they want to battle sex trafficking in their borough.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) addressed an audience of over 200 students and faculty at Queensborough Community College in Bayside last Thursday on “Human Trafficking in Our Own Backyard,” drawing a near-capacity crowd.
The talk was the culminating event of a three-week-long ongoing series of related activities, all part of the college’s Common Read Initiative, inspired this year by the featured text, “The Road to Lost Innocence,” the true story of a Cambodian woman who overcame great obstacles and used her experiences to help others stand up for human rights.
The book, written by Somaly Mam based on her own life of abuse in Cambodian brothels, had become a shared reading experience by some 1,300 students and over 35 faculty members from across academic disciplines.
The senator focused on problems relating to human trafficking which, he indicated, runs rampant along Roosevelt Avenue, particularly between 69th and 112th streets.
So-called chica cards, featuring what Peralta described as “degrading pictures of women,” are commonly distributed in the area, so commonplace that “children trade them like baseball cards.”
Peralta indicated that “many women from around the world are brought to Queens and enslaved. The victims are very afraid,” and sometimes seen by the law as criminals. He pointed out that some members of the taxi industry are known to have been “involved in moving these women along. There are those bad apples that perpetuate this crime.”
He said that often these women who come to this country to live the American dream instead “live that American nightmare.” There is a need, he said, to “toughen laws.”
Few politicians aspire to bring the ambiance of Times Square to their districts, but state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said a stretch of Roosevelt Avenue that has grown saturated with prostitution could use some of the sterilization that transformed Times Square in the 1980s.
While speaking at Queensborough Community College April 3, Peralta described various legislative endeavors to crack down on sex traffickers and prostitution businesses and fund organizations that provide pathways out of the industry for victims.
The senator said afterward he believed recruiting Disney to open a store in Times Square anchored commercial development and ushered in an era of strict policing.
“We don’t need to bring in the big, big box store on Roosevelt Avenue — a mid-size box store,” Peralta said, noting he wanted to “keep the flavor of the mom-and-pop shops” nearby.
But the senator emphasized that wooing Disney took assistance from federal, state and local officials, and he is hoping Mayor Bill de Blasio would join him and U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) in scouting for a Roosevelt Avenue anchor.
As Times Square spurned prostitution, the industry migrated along the No. 7 train line, and Peralta said businesses began offering free car service to patrons from midtown to Corona and Jackson Heights.