By Tim Burtis, county legislator
At our October session, I sponsored a resolution requesting New York state to adopt legislation regarding human trafficking and establish an affirmative defense for use in alleged cases of prostitution. The New York State Assembly introduced a bill that would amend the penal law to protect victims of sex trafficking. Individuals who have been victims of human trafficking and who face criminal charges of prostitution should have an opportunity to shield themselves from prosecution on these charges based on the fact that participation in the crime was not voluntary.
Human trafficking is not something that people in Syracuse or Onondaga County want to talk about. However, it is far more prevalent than you might think. Onondaga County has been identified by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services as one of the five counties in New York State with the highest population of sexually exploited youth. In our community, more often than not, sex trafficking is the result of drugs and addiction. Drug dealers force their “clients” to sell their bodies to pay off debts or to pay for drugs. The area that I would like to focus on is the need for drug treatment and rehabilitation, rather than prosecuting people for prostitution. The enactment of state legislation is necessary to protect vulnerable and already victimized people from further harm.
Another part of the state’s legislation is increasing the minimum sentence for imprisonment for those convicted of sex trafficking. Currently, sex and human trafficking is a felony, with only a sentence of up to 25 years if convicted. The state legislation I am supporting will make human trafficking a Class B Felony with a sentence of no less than 25 years.
The McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center here in Syracuse has been an invaluable resource for me and I support them and all the great work that they do.
Something has to be done and this is a start. Human trafficking in Onondaga County must be stopped in order to assure our residents a safe and secure place to live and to raise a family.
Tim Burtis represents the third legislative district, which includes the town of Cicero and portions of the town of Manlius. Tim welcomes constituent feedback; he can be reached by email at, email@example.com or by phone at 396-3300.