January is 'Human Trafficking Awareness Month,' taking a look at human trafficking in Rochester

Patrick Moussignac
Created: January 10, 2020 06:46 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Thursday night News10NBC first reported about a Gates resident who was arrested after being accused of attempting to have sex with a 13-year-old girl.

This is one of many cases in Western New York of adults trying to sexually exploit young children.

The Rochester Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking (RRCAHT) is one local organization that continues to stand up against human trafficking, as well as the sexual abuse of minors.

The month of January has been named as "Human Trafficking Awareness Month," and the Coalition says awareness and education is the key in helping to end this social problem. 

Friday morning the group hosted a roundtable discussion.

"We look at younger girls, or minors for the most part who are being recruited into a lifestyle," one member of the roundtable replied to one question.

The continued exploitation of minors for sex by adults was on high on the agenda. Melanie Blow, a Founding member of the RRCAHT told the audience, "We're talking about it. We're educating people about it. That is one of the most significant things. This is not a terribly easy thing to spot. It’s very subtle so education is important."

On Thursday, 24-year-old Michael Greco of Gates was arrested after allegedly trying to set up a sexual encounter through an online ad with a girl he believed to be 13-years-old. In truth he was communicating with an undercover investigator posing as the "girl's mother." 

The coalition says access to the most vulnerable is almost too easy to find both predators and traffickers.

"Often times there's a lot of technology involved," Dr. Celia McIntosh, President of the RRCAHT said.

McIntosh went on to say, "Maybe these traffickers are finding people on social media."

The coalition says Monroe County has services in place for human trafficking victims, but Blow says the system is not perfect. 

"About half of all sex workers, half of all prostitutes are trafficked at some point in their lives," Blow said.

She went on to say, "There are gaps in it but we still have one. We have some housing for victims. We need more but we're working on that."

Rounding out the discussion was the legislative proposal to decriminalize prostitution in the state. 

"This could drastically change everything this community does to protect trafficking victims," said Blow. "So we need to talk about it."
Michael Greco was arraigned Thursday morning in federal court on a count of online enticement of a minor.

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