Recently, the Super Bowl raised the concern that the huge influx of people who would be in the metropolitan area would lead to a surge in prostitution and sex trafficking. Whether or not this is another urban myth remains a question, but what is not a question is that sex trafficking is alive and well in Westchester and other suburban areas.
While we protect youngsters under 16 by dealing with them in the family courts, considering them victims, and persons in need of supervision, we have not extended these protections to youngsters, mostly girls, who are 16 and 17. In contrast we have treated them as criminals in the criminal courts.
I am happy to report that a new law changing the procedures for treating juveniles charged with being prostitutes has passed the legislature and been signed into law by the governor. I was pleased to be a supporter of the new law. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds charged with prostitution or loitering for that purpose can now be treated as “persons in need of supervision.” If the person charged pleads guilty or is convicted, the judge must substitute youthful offender adjudication. This brings the treatment of 16- and 17-year-olds into line with the treatment of those under 16 in the family courts.
The recent TV show I hosted on sex trafficking certainly suggested that the exploitation of youngsters is a fact of life in our area and not just large urban settings. I was therefore glad to be able to support a bill that I believe will be more effective in protecting our children, removing the taint of a permanent criminal record, and providing the support they need to succeed in life.