05 January 2024- Crime statistics have been increasingly scrutinized over the past three years, with violent versus non-violent crime being the biggest sticking point for many. In overall good news, however, comes a report by the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania this week that highlights a nearly 41% drop in human-trafficking offenses in the state over the last year.
In total, the courts say 286 human-trafficking cases were filed over the past five years. In those cases, 809 total offenses were listed, with it increasing to a peak in 2021. That year saw a huge spike in human trafficking cases across the Commonwealth, as 308 total offenses were filed in the state alone.
While the term “human-trafficking” is a broad term, the Courts in the Commonwealth describe it as “a type of human rights abuse where people profit from the exploitation of others, mainly through the use of force, fraud, or coercion to manipulate victims into engaging in sex acts or labor/services in exchange for something of value”. Crucially, they continue saying, “those under age 18 who exchange sex for something of value are human trafficking victims, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion is involved”. This is due to the fact they legally cannot consent to sexual acts.
January is Human-Trafficking Awareness Month, with the recent report by the UJS a focal point of the state’s attempts to raise awareness of the issue.
While much of the documented human trafficking in the state is focused in the urban centers (think Berks, Chester, and Dauphin counties which total 12%, 9%, and 10%, respectively of the state’s total offenses), it can and does occur everywhere. Chambersburg-based Constable Timothy Heefner was charged in September with over 700 counts of sexual exploitation, including trafficking in individuals, involuntary servitude, and more.
A reminder for both your fellow citizens as well as from law enforcement; see something, say something. Know your local police department’s numbers and don’t be afraid to call 911 if the need arises.