When Police Commissioner Ray Kelly sat down for an exclusive interview with the Queens Chronicle editorial board earlier this year, one of the many subjects we asked him about was sex trafficking. It’s one of the paper’s top concerns when it comes to law and order.
The commissioner described some of the department’s ongoing efforts to combat both sex trafficking and prostitution, along with the challenges officers face — victims’ frequent reluctance to come forward and the international nature of trafficking among them.
What he didn’t tell us was what he couldn’t tell us: that the NYPD and several other agencies at all levels of government were in the midst of a 16-month investigation into prostitution and newspaper advertising for escort and massage services that are actually fronts for the practice, along with related money laundering and drug activity.
Last week, that probe resulted in the indictments of 19 people, including 11 from Queens. Many of the defendants have Asian names and live in northern Queens, no surprise to anyone familiar with the sex trade here. It’s despicable what’s being done to women and girls in areas such as Flushing.
Ann Jawin, the founder of the Center for the Women of New York, was among those who — once notified of the arrests by the Queens Chronicle — praised the law enforcement agencies for their work.
“People have to know that patronizing one of these women is not just a fun night out,” said Jawin, who noted that the use of newspaper and internet advertising for prostitution has only recently been making its way into the public consciousness. “It places you in a crime scene.”
One bust, however big, does not put an end to what is, after all, the world’s oldest profession. But it does harm those who are enslaving women, many underage illegal immigrants, and may serve as a deterrent to others who would do the same. We applaud Kelly, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and all the police and investigators who worked on the case —and, if found guilty, we hope the defendants get the maximum sentences allowed.