HUNTS POINT, NY - This industrial area in Hunts Point has long been known for turning into an open-air sex-for-sale market at night. But it's not the only New York City neighborhood that is seeing public prostitution. Now a major coalition of groups is coming together to demand a new approach.
This woman appears to be soliciting a male driver at a known Hunts Point hotspot for buying and selling sex.
Sonia Ossori of NOW NYC says sex trafficking has become way too common in other communities as well.
"De facto decriminalization, what does that look like? Multiple open air sex markets in East New York, the resurgence of brothels along Roosevelt Avenue in Queens and Sunnyside. It looks like men buying sex at 8 AM and Times Square and the Port Authority."
These leaders say they've seen a dramatic rise in sex trafficking over the last couple of years, and that it affects every demographic group, and carries with it life and death risks.
Ane Mathieson LMSW, Co-DIrector of the Empower Center said, "Last year we served 456 sex trade survivors, including citizens, non-citizens, youth, and adults. At the Empower Center we know, regardless of how a person ends up in the sex trade, they face an unbelievably high risk of being murdered and raped."
Organizations that help survivors form an escape plan and start a new life are critical, says Melanie Thompson. She was kidnapped and forced into the sex trade, at the age of 12 and now advocates for other survivors.
The NYPD says prostitution and solicitation remain illegal, and if they focus enforcement on areas where the community files complaints.
An NYPD spokesperson told us, "We have significantly reduced the number of arrests for prostitution itself as we work in every case to connect the victims of human trafficking with the services they need. We have also worked to proactively deter individual buyers of sex."
Melanie Thompson said, "We're focusing too much on the women, and the people who are marginalized instead of the people that are demanding the paid sex, the people that are there purchasing and commodifying individuals."
The coalition is urging police and local district attorneys to take more action and have coordinated enforcement plans.
Law enforcement sources told FOX 5 that new strategies are currently in the works in response to neighborhood complaints.