Earlier this month, a Harrisburg man was sentenced to 25 years in prison for leading a local human trafficking operation from 2015—2016.
Following a four day trial last year, he was convicted of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion; possession with intent to distribute heroin; and conspiracy to commit both crimes. Four other men pleaded guilty to similar crimes and have begun to receive shorter sentences for their role in this sex trafficking ring.
These men used fraud, physical assault and threats of violence, and deprivation of heroin to those addicted to sexually exploit over 20 adults—including three children as young as 14. They rented hotel rooms and advertised escort services on the website Backpage.com, since shut down by the FBI.
These men utilized the deliberate exploitation strategies that underpin most domestic sex trafficking: targeting vulnerable people who are young, financially insecure, and struggling with a drug addiction.
This sentencing follows closely on the heels of two men receiving decades-long sentences for operating a multi-county human trafficking ring.
Dauphin County has the fourth highest number of human trafficking cases filed in Pennsylvania at 7%, though as in the Lancaster case, the victims and operations transcend county lines. While it is encouraging that authorities are breaking up these networks and taking sentencing seriously, the true scope of human trafficking is not captured in convictions. Among the limited number of Pennsylvania human trafficking service providers, resources are limited and housing is scarce for individuals escaping trafficking. And the need has only escalated during COVID-19.
That’s why we are raising funds to open the first long-term restoration home for trafficking survivors in Cumberland County; healing and permanent escape from exploitation for victims extends beyond, and in the absence of, convictions and sentencing.
If you would like to help support our goal, consider donating or attending our annual Art Festival. Together, and alongside law enforcement and prosecutors, we will turn our communities into Greenlight Districts free from exploitation.