NEW CANAAN — Krishna Patel has worked hard to combat human trafficking since starting her career in law.

“When I graduated law school I had a strong interest in looking particularly at issues that impacted women and children,” Patel said.

In 2015, the Westport resident joined the Grace Farms Foundation as their general counsel and justice initiative director. This past summer, she decided to relinquish her position of general counsel to focus solely on the justice initiatives.

Her legal career has spanned more than two decades. Patel said upon joining the justice department in New York she didn’t expect human trafficking would become such a severe issue. However, after 9/11 there were major changes.

“Refugees and asylum issues hit very hard in New York City,” she said. “At that time we also had some very significant trafficking cases.”

During this time, the justice department started realizing the vulnerabilities to immigrants, she said, however it was difficult for the them to prosecute using existing laws.

“We started realizing the vulnerablites of what we were seeing, which was a contemporary form of slavery,” she said.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 would later help justice departments combat the growing issue. “By the mid-2000s we also started realizing our biggest issue in trafficking was a domestic trafficking issue,” she said.

Over the years, Patel has played a large role in organizing action against human trafficking in Connecticut, incluidng helping draft amendments to strengthen Connecticut’s existing anti-trafficking laws.

“Globally, now we have more people enslaved than in any other time in human history,” she said. “Globally, 70 percent of this is labor trafficking.”

To combat trafficking, Grace Farms has chosen American consumption as one of its focuses. Much of what is bought in America — food, clothes, and more — are rooted in slavery, Patel said.

“The U.S. is the largest consumer of slave-made goods,” she said. “The fact that our supply chains are not transparent or ethical we need to do much more.”

Through her legal experience over the years, she has seen how trafficking is handled at different levels. In the state, a lot of the focus is on the sex trafficking of minors, while on the global level the focus is toward labor trafficking. Nationally, the approach to handling trafficking is mixed, Patel said.

“I don’t think we’ve done a good job really looking at the labor issue strong enough,” she said. “We have so many communities where there’s clearly not enough awareness.”

In her previous role as an attorney, she combated these cases after the crimes occurred. With her role in Grace Farms, she is able to take a more proactive stance and will work to ensure supply chains are more transparent.

“Grace Farms has given me the opportunity to take a very holistic view at how to look at disruption and prevention,” Patel said. “When you can actually look at that you have the ability to look at eradication as a possibility.”

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com, 203-842-2568