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New Canaan's Grace Farms Works To End Child Exploitation

Grace Farms Foundation President Sharon Prince speaks at the beginning of the foundation's two-day workshop on combatting child exploitation on Thursday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky
Krishna Patel speaks at the beginning of the foundation's two-day workshop on combatting child exploitation on Thursday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky
Audience members listen to the panelists at the beginning of the Grace Farms Foundation's two-day workshop on combatting child exploitation on Thursday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — A problem exacerbated by 21st-century technology needs a 21st-century solution, Grace Farms Foundation President Sharon Prince said at the opening Thursday to the foundation’s two-day workshop on helping to eradicate child exploitation.

“The Internet is the crime scene of the 21st century,” Prince told the audience, who had gathered for the organization’s first public forum in the farm’s glass-enclosed sanctuary.“This is a 21st-century response.”

Business uses big data platforms — technology that allows enterprises to analyze vast amounts of data — to make business decisions. Those same approaches could be used to tackle the problem of child trafficking, Prince said.

The foundation is working with the public and private sectors to promote the use of software approaches to targeting trafficking. Last week, 40 police officers attended a training session, Prince said.

Child trafficking is an international problem with local and state implications. An estimated 27 million people are enslaved worldwide, Prince said.

Those who tackle the problem head on are unique people who often need support from outside organizations, Prince said.

“It takes a tremendous amount of courage,” she said. “It (also) takes collaboration quite often with law enforcement.”

Prince said people need to stand up and stop child exploitation from occurring.

“This crime will not stop unless people intervene,” she said.

Panelist Luis deBaca, a Justice Department official, said the notion of “shared humanity” inspires those who help victims make the transition to survivors.

The two-day workshop, which continues Friday, is part of the foundation’s justice initiative. One of its goals is to create a multi-disciplinary model focused on disrupting and eradicating child exploitation involving awareness and prevention, investigation and prosecution, and victim services.

Open to the public, the workshop is being held at Grace Farms, the new center for nature, arts, community, justice and faith in New Canaan.

The workshop is organized by Sharon Prince, president of Grace Farms Foundation; Krishna R. Patel, director of justice initiatives at Grace Farms; and Rod Khattabi, director of safety and adviser for justice initiatives at Grace Farms.

Patel, who offered welcoming remarks, is the former deputy chief for National Security & Major Crimes for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Connecticut.

The event also includes library book signings, architecture tours, a premier movie screening and optional working groups.

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