In 2007, New York legislators approved one of the nation’s more expansive sex trafficking laws, but the law has rarely been used outside of New York City, reports the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Through late March there had been 145 sex trafficking arrests in the state under the law, all but 13 in New York City. Experts say there are multiple reasons why the law has so rarely been used: It is still relatively new; many cases end up in federal court; and trafficking investigations can be difficult to build, especially because of reluctant victims.
Some say the biggest impediment to toughened anti-trafficking law enforcement may be the long-held belief that a prostitute is, first and foremost, a criminal. “We're still struggling to change the public perception,” said Lauren Hersh, a Brooklyn prosecutor who handles trafficking cases. The law gives local police the opportunity to be on the front line of the war against sex trafficking and also tries to ensure that trafficking victims get help. Each year the number of arrests statewide has grown, from 16 in 2008 to 69 last year. This year there have been 14 through late March — only three of which were outside of New York City.