BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Officials say a newly created Human Trafficking Intervention Court in Buffalo will provide a safe place for victims of sex trafficking and help authorities get to the root of what causes it.
In 2009, nothing seemed out of the ordinary at four Cheektowaga spas, but inside a disturbing practice was taking place. Federal authorities raided them as part of a human trafficking investigation. In response to situations like this, there's a statewide initiative to address this in court.
Buffalo City Court Chief Judge Thomas Amodeo said, "There's still an antiquated view that prostitution is a chosen profession. Many individuals that come to our court are victims of trafficking, recruited into a commercial sex industry by force, fraud and coercion."
Police say many times women are brought in from foreign countries without any money and they're trapped doing what their bosses tell them to do. As a result, Buffalo City Court has created the Human Trafficking Intervention Court.
Once a prostitution or related case comes in, it will be transferred to the special court.
"We are seeking to assist the most vulnerable among us," Judge Amy Martoche said.
Professional advocates will meet once a week to evaluate each case and tailor court-mandated services to meet there needs.
Judge Amodeo said, "A wide range of services have been made available to us, from safe housing, education to health care, immigration assistance, job training. They'll be available as an effort to provide the victim with a meaningful alternative."
The new court started accepting cases last month. So far they've had 15, but it's estimated that 200 cases will come before them within the court's first year.
Officials say the intervention court won't review cases for those who are caught paying for sex. They do not want to mix the victims and offenders in the same court.
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