VOADV Hosts 2nd Annual Human Trafficking Summit

Volunteers of America Delaware Valley (VOADV) recently hosted their second annual Human Trafficking Summit: In Plain Sight, Uncovering the Why on Thursday, April 20, 2023 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The goal of the summit was to bring together stakeholders – state officials, law enforcement agencies on a local, state and national level, national experts and community partners – in order to examine and discuss the issue of human trafficking, specifically pertaining to youth, and its broader community impacts.

“It is our hope that the Summit sheds light on ongoing efforts at the state and national level to combat human trafficking – highlighting the importance of law enforcement and provider alliances, with a focus on juvenile education, awareness and victim resources,” said Daniel L. Lombardo, President and CEO of VOADV. “This Summit brings the topic of human trafficking right to the forefront. Today’s panel discussion was crucial, as partners spoke to valuable resources available at all stakeholder levels to address human trafficking in the State of New Jersey.”

After Lombardo’s welcoming remarks, the Summit’s morning session commenced with keynote addresses from Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, Senate Majority Leader, 29th Legislative District and Major Thomas Wieczerak on behalf of the New Jersey State Police.

“I was honored to join Volunteers of America Delaware Valley at their 2nd annual Human Trafficking Summit, especially since it was focused on youth,” said Senator Ruiz. “Keeping children in our communities safe and healthy has always been a priority for me as a legislator, and the discussion of the trafficking of youth is just an extension of that work. This gathering of experts from across the spectrum truly lifted up the work that is being done by law enforcement, in partnership with providers, to increase juvenile education and awareness, as well as the best practices and initiatives that have been successfully implemented to protect our youth. These discussions will truly enhance our communities’ ability to protect and empower our youth.”

“Trafficking is a violation of basic human rights, subjecting victims to reprehensible physical and emotional abuse due to the manipulation and fear-based tactics used by their perpetrators,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The Human Trafficking Summit creates an opportunity to connect with our law enforcement partners, community leaders, and stakeholders to develop strategies aimed at eradicating human trafficking, dismantling operations that create life-long damage to victims, and implementing resources to aid victims in their recovery.”

Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin added, “Human Trafficking is a heinous crime carried out by networks of criminals working together to cruelly exploit the most vulnerable among us. To combat this evil, we must continue building an even stronger network of individuals and organizations dedicated to raising public awareness of this crime, identifying and providing services to victims, and holding perpetrators accountable. My office is proud to be part of the important work being carried out by those attending the Human Trafficking Summit. Through the recently established Human Trafficking Unit within our Division of Criminal Justice, we are coordinating a statewide law enforcement effort to aggressively pursue and prosecute those who trade in people and exploit them for profit.”

The Summit continued with a panel discussion moderated by Amanda Leese, Senior VP of Reentry and Navigator Services at Volunteers of America Delaware Valley and Chief Christopher Winters of the Pine Hill Police Department, featuring representatives from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police.

Afternoon breakout sessions were also held to encourage open conversations among Summit attendees, specifically regarding youth – how to respond to missing and at-risk youth, when conversations should occur with youth regarding the dangers of trafficking and the recovery/healing process after trafficked youth are rescued.

VOADV’s Human Trafficking Summit is part of the organization’s many efforts to both address and combat human trafficking throughout the greater Southern New Jersey region. VOADV continues to offer the Atlantic County Human Trafficking Program – a specialized program, funded through the generous support of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA), that pairs direct, immediate services with guided outreach by law enforcement to increase youth awareness, outreach and victim services regarding human trafficking.

For more information on Volunteers of America Delaware Valley or their supportive services throughout the community, visit: www.voadv.orgwww.voadv.org.

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