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Human trafficking prosecutions on Cape and Islands rise 31 percent

Audrey Morrissey, co-executive director of My Life My Choice, speaks at Monday's announcement of a state grant the district attorney's office won to combat human trafficking. At right is Cape and Islands District Attorney Robert Galibois.
Jennette Barnes
/
CAI
Audrey Morrissey, co-executive director of My Life My Choice, speaks at Monday's announcement of a state grant the district attorney's office won to combat human trafficking. At right is Cape and Islands District Attorney Robert Galibois.

Human trafficking cases prosecuted on the Cape and Islands last year rose 31 percent from the year before, according to the office of Cape and Islands District Attorney Robert Galibois.

Now, in a push to investigate alleged perpetrators and help survivors of trafficking, Galibois is allocating state grant money to police and community organizations. His office won a $97,000 grant to support that work.

Advocates say human trafficking is happening in our region, and there’s more to the problem than some people realize.

Traffickers use people’s vulnerabilities to profit illegally from their labor or sexual exploitation.

Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Madge, chief of the DA’s human trafficking and child abuse unit, said human trafficking doesn’t have to involve someone being forcibly restrained or smuggled over international borders.

A trafficker, she said, “could post someone on an online website, offer their sexual services, receive the money for it, drive them to the hotel, drive them to the other location, and all of that comes under sex trafficking. And you can be held accountable for all of that.”

Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Madge, second from right, is chief of the human trafficking and child abuse unit in the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office.
Jennette Barnes
/
CAI
Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Madge, second from right, is chief of the human trafficking and child abuse unit in the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office.

She gave an example, from her previous job, of a 14-year-old girl.

“She ended up getting into trafficking because she wanted a cell phone, and her parents wouldn't buy her a cell phone because they didn't want to expose her to a variety of things,” she said. “And so there was a trafficker out there that exploited that.”

The Cape and Islands DA’s office has prosecuted 58 human trafficking cases over the last three years, some of those under former District Attorney Michael O’Keefe.

Organizations receiving part of the $97,051 grant include Independence House, the Barnstable Police Department, and Cape Cod PATH (People Against Trafficking Humans).

The largest piece, $50,000, will go to Boston-based My Life My Choice, to expand the services it provides to adolescent survivors of trafficking on Cape Cod.

Audrey Morrissey, co-executive director, said the group pairs survivors with survivor-mentors. It also does prevention training.

In some cases, trafficking is only suspected until a person — often a young person — opens up to a mentor.

“Once the young person met a survivor, they were able to say, yeah, this did happen to me,” she said.

Galibois also announced grants to help police with narcotics and firearms investigations, and for a peer group for youth. His office won a state grant of $98,998 that will be distributed to the Falmouth Police Department, Yarmouth Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police detective unit assigned to the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office, and Behavioral Health Innovators.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.

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