A devastating issue is gaining a lot of attention: sex trafficking. A citywide conference was held in the Bronx to bring more awareness to members of the clergy. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Emotions were running high at the Call to Action, Not On My Watch conference as disturbing stories of domestic violence and human trafficking were told.
"The FBI estimates that 55 percent of sex trafficked children in the United States are African American," says Taina Bien-Aimé of NYS Anti-Trafficking Coalition. "The average age of entry into prostitution as it was mentioned in New York is between 12 and 14 years old."
This conference was put together by the New York City Clergy Roundtable. Advocates and officials who are battling the problem gave out information on how to spot warning signs.
It's not always strangers forcing others to sell sex on the internet and street.
"It could be an intimate partner. It could a relative, or a friend that lures you into this awful and devastating space," said Rose Pierre-Louis, Commissioner of the Office to Combat Domestic Violence.
Homeland Security took part in the Bronx conference, and stressed that human trafficking is on the rise.
"One is in sex trafficking, the other is in labor trafficking," says DHS' Rev. David Myers. "It is increasing because there are many more people that are realizing that they can make a lot of money at it."
As a part of their call to action, some clergy members say they are planning to take over street corners during late night hours, to send a message that sex trafficking and prostitution must stop.
"We are going to have 200 faith leaders that are going to set up safe havens throughout the entire city. And we are going to be the eyes and ears for our community, which we are supposed to be anyway. And we are not going to be afraid," says Rev. Que English of NYC Clergy Roundtable.
The Bronx district attorney, Robert Johnson, says he's pursuing felony charges against several people who are forcing others to sell their bodies.
"One of the difficulties with sex trafficking is getting the victims to feel comfortable enough to speak to law enforcement because there are very, very violent individuals perpetrating this crime and people are afraid of them," Johnson says.
The DA says there are nine pending indictments against sex traffickers and one ongoing investigation in another case.