January 2022 is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which coincides with the Department of Homeland Security’s annual “Blue Campaign” – a national public awareness effort to educate the public to recognize the signs of victims of human trafficking. To raise awareness, the center façade of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Correctional Facility in Riverhead will be lit up in blue light throughout the month of January.
Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office have embraced the Blue Campaign over the past few years. “Human trafficking is happening in Suffolk County and in communities across the country,” said Sheriff Toulon. “Most often these victims are women who are vulnerable due to a substance abuse issue and who may have had several traumatic experiences throughout their lives. It’s not uncommon for youth in the foster care system to fall victim to traffickers, but men and women from all backgrounds can become victims.”
Sheriff Toulon started The Sheriff’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative Unit in 2018 – the first of its kind in the country operating from inside a correctional facility. The principal objective is to ensure that all victims of human trafficking who pass through the Suffolk County Correctional Facility are identified and have access to the services they need to recover. Additionally, they are supported throughout their long-term journey as survivors with the help of the S.T.A.R.T. Resource Center on the grounds of the Yaphank Jail, and through many non-profit service providers partnered with the Sheriff’s Office. Since inception, S.A.T.I. has conducted over 2700 inmate interviews, identified 239 human trafficking victims and identified 148 perpetrators. Criminal investigations against these traffickers are coordinated with local, state, and federal partners working with the Suffolk County Anti-Trafficking Initiative.