WEST ORANGE, NJ  - The Conference portion of Tuesday night's Town Council Agenda recognized the efforts of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking and celebrated the 20 year anniversary of the establishment of the West Orange Human Relations Commission.

The first portion of the meeting focused on Mayor Parisi's Proclamation that January was Human Trafficking month in New Jersey.  Councilwoman Spango  read the Proclamation as members from Community Relations of Greater Metro West-National Council of Jewish Women looked on.  Ingrid Johnson, whose 14-year-old daughter was forced into prostitution after running away from home, spoke briefly and thanked the Mayor and Town Council for recognizing how important the fight against human trafficking was.  She spoke of the mission of NJCAHT, which was to educate and assist efforts against human trafficking, and how they were working to become the hub of community efforts in New Jersey.  

The first Rally against Human Trafficking in the nation and state will be held this Friday, January 11, declared :Human Trafficking Day" at 11:00 am  on the steps of the Statehouse, located at 125 W. State Street, Trenton.  Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr., Senator Nellie Pou, human trafficking survivors, and representatives from the Polaris Project, are also expected to be in attendance. 

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Legislation has been introduced: "The Human Trafficking, Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act," which would give New Jersey, along with Washington State and Indiana, the toughest human trafficking laws in the country. Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Dist. 37), is spearheading the legislation.

Division of Criminal Justice figures show 179 cases of sex and labor trafficking reported in New Jersey in the past seven years, considered a huge  underestimate by experts whobelieve the real numbers are in the thousands.  Nationally  the U.S. State Department estimates that 50,000 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States annually. That is on top of 100,000 victims already in our country when they are enslaved. Under federal law, any person under 18 involved in the commercial sex industry is considered a human trafficking victim.

Council President Cirilo then recognized the 20 year Anniversary of the Human Relations Commission and thanked Pastor Doug Adams, Chairperson, for his comments to the town council reminding us all that 'politics should not get in the way' and that while we may never all agree, we need to 'leave a legacy of collaboration.'  Adams spoke highly of the efforts of the WOHRC and its commissioners. 

Councilman Jerry Guarino then read a proclamation recognizing Gregory Bullock, a member of the WOHRC since its inception 20 years ago, for his service to the community.  He has been involved in several initiatives of the the commission, including the Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations, Diversity Day, and Conversations on Race.