Human Trafficking Convictions Shed Light on Issue in New Hampshire

Two human trafficking convictions in less than a month in New Hampshire are shedding light on a problem that many don't know exists in the Granite State.

"It's heartbreaking," said YWCA Crisis Center Director Amy Pettengill. "It's not just an international problem it's right here in our backyard."

She says human trafficking is so prevalent in the city that victims are coming forward on a weekly basis.

"One of my first human trafficking calls was a 17-year-old girl who had been trafficked from Oregon," she said. "I met her and she had been mased and burned because she tried to get away from her trafficker."

Pettengill says the stories don't stop there.

"We'll get women that walk in and they'll have what people would think are tattoos, but they're actually brands from their pimps," she explained.

On Monday, Nathanial Clarke was sentenced to at least ten years in prison. Prosecutors say Clarke preyed on heroin addicts, then beat them and withheld their drugs, forcing them into having sex with strangers for money.

"He would have the needles ready and he would give it to them as long as they worked for him, and when they didn't, if they didn't want to work, he wouldn't give it to them," explained Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Greg Lenti.

The head of a separate trafficking ring, Donald Kaplan, was convicted earlier this month.

Prosecutors say he beat and raped his victims into cooperation.

"The message is we're not going to tolerate it, we know it's out there,' said Manchester Assistant Police Chief Carlo Capano at a press conference Monday afternoon. "We're going to work together, use whatever resources we have to prosecute these people to the fullest."

For Pettengill, it's a relief to see local, state, and federal investigators taking aim at these criminals who she says will do anything to keep their victims quiet.

"If they don't get out, there's a chance they're going to die," she said.

Pettengill says the best way for someone to escape a dangerous situation is to make an excuse to go to a hospital. At that point, there will be a Crisis Center advocate available to help within minutes.

You can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1 (888) 373-7888.

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