Suffolk County launches campaign to help keep children safe from human trafficking

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The Suffolk County community and law enforcement gathered Friday in support of a new initiative to keep children on the Island safe from human trafficking.

The Suffolk County Antitrafficking Initiative announced its launch of a public awareness campaign about human trafficking Friday morning.

Lisa Principe spoke at the conference about her daughter who was victim of sex trafficking on Long Island.

“She was beaten, held drugged, you name it. And this is what's happening on Long Island,” Principe said. “My daughter was manipulated. Somebody said they loved her, she was going to be his girlfriend and inevitably he was one of the ringleaders.”

Principe shared the disturbing details of her daughter’s experience along with Maria Francaeilla, who lost her daughter Torri to sex trafficking.

"They lost their battle, life had just gotten too hard for my daughter after all the torture and hardships she had been through,” said Principe. “Tori unfortunately lost her life due to human trafficking as well.”

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the task force attempted to help more than 220 women since it began back in 2017.

"The youngest of those we helped was 12 years old,” said Hart.

Authorities say social media plays a large role in allowing these predators to lure their victims, often pretending to want to be their boyfriend and then getting them addicted to drugs. Eventually, the predator makes the victim pay back their debt.

“They view these young women as a commodity, and it is much more advantageous for them to traffic a girl over and over and over again than to one time sell a gun or some heroin,” said Hart.

Officials say some red flags parents need to watch out for in their kids include withdrawn behavior, bruises, repeated running away, and any signs of another person controlling them.

The Suffolk County Antitrafficking Initiative has launched its own website, as well as Facebook and Instagram pages. It is also educating school and health care officials and asking rideshare services to be aware of the signs of human trafficking.

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