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NYPD vice unit targets sex trafficking year-round

NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Favale of the Human

NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Favale of the Human Trafficking Unit is interviewed at One Police Plaza on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

For NYPD vice investigators, human sex trafficking is an everyday affair in which hundreds of boys, girls and women are exploited and enslaved in a life of violence and drugs.

"This is New York City and there is no shortage of offenders and with this event [Super Bowl] we are ramping up resources," said NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Favale, the department's vice enforcement coordinator.

Arrests of johns, prostitutes and sex traffickers has seen an uptick this month. The NYPD has made 298 prostitution-related arrests through Jan. 26, 2014 -- a 30 percent increase over the same period in 2013 when there were 229, according to police.

Favale and his 30 investigators work with 200 detectives throughout the year to enforce sex trafficking laws and bust commercial operations, Favale said. Most of those are in Queens with some spill over into Nassau County, he said.

"We have discovered that domestic trafficking is embedded in a whole host of other crimes such as chronic runaway cases, missing person cases and drug trafficking," Favale said.

Brainwashed and manipulated by violence and drugs, sex trafficking victims, who come from all racial and economic groups, find it hard to break away and cooperate with police, he said.

To put a dent in the sex trade, police need the help of victims to make arrests, Favale said. He decided to reach out to nonprofit, nongovernment groups that rescue victims from their pimps, he added.

This bridge building has helped to put sex profiteers behind bars as police solve homicide and drug trafficking cases.

"Without these NGOs we would be out there in the cold waiting for something to happen," Favale said.

The partnerships help police get "the names of the players, their locations" and how they operate while victims get the support they need to stop being exploited.

Rachel Lloyds, founder of Girls Education and Mentoring Services or GEMS, works with police to build criminal cases and help victims.

Through peer support "we help the girls [ages 12 to 24] to build awareness that they are exploited and that their pimps are not their boyfriends," Lloyd said. She added that she escaped from a sex trafficking ring in Germany before starting her nonprofit in 1998.

Lloyd said Favale and his investigators "treat sex trafficking victims with respect, sensitivity and dignity while pursuing a case. His level of compassion is quite impressive. He is willing to collaborate and get the girls the services they need."

In recognition of Favale's work with victims, he was recently awarded the Malone Prize for Law Enforcement Vision and Leadership from Jane Wells, executive director of 3 Generations and producer of "Tricked," a documentary that tells the stories of sex trafficking survivors.

"We consider Inspector Favale a visionary who gets it that this is not merely prostitution," Wells said.

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