“Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the country and is nothing more than modern-day slavery,” said Cuccinelli. “Besides working to get Virginia’s laws strengthened, it is a major priority of my office to educate law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim-witness coordinators how to identify, prosecute, and prevent human trafficking to rid our commonwealth and our nation of this scourge.”
Sen. Ebbin noted that there are a number of opportunities to dramatically increase awareness of human trafficking and support victims in the 2012 session. “Fighting human trafficking in Virginia should be a top priority for all of us. With recent reports of growing gang involvement in sex trafficking, we must multiply our efforts in fighting this terrible crime,” said Ebbin. “We made great strides during the last session by passing legislation that protects victims, and gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to target traffickers. Now, there are four more bills we can and should pass to fight this continuing problem in the Commonwealth.”
Four bills are currently pending in the legislature. The first requires that strip clubs post the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. The second requires the Department of Education to provide human trafficking training materials for local school division staff in Virginia. The final two bills are part of the attorney general’s legislative package which would increase penalties for “johns” who solicit commercial sex from minors and would give law enforcement more tools to target criminal gangs involved in sex trafficking.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, run by Polaris Project, nearly 400 people called the national human trafficking hotline from Virginia – more calls than in 2010 and 2009 combined. More than 258 members of law enforcement received training by Polaris Project in 2011 alone. A number of investigations also led to successful prosecutions in 2011 of traffickers who recruited women and girls and forced them into commercial sex. For example, one man was sentenced to life in prison on October 28, 2011, for prostituting a 12-year-old female runaway.
“We are pleased to see Virginia’s elected officials take a multi-pronged approach to help ensure that growing awareness translates into real actions that prevent human trafficking, prosecute traffickers and support victims,” said James Dold, Policy Counsel for Polaris Project. “To be effective, we must involve community members, local businesses, elected officials and law enforcement. It is exciting to see Virginia’s leaders come together to end human trafficking in our communities.”
To report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, or request information, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, operated by Polaris Project, at: 1-888-373-7888.