On the Federal Level
The federal government has increased its domestic anti-human trafficking programs. One program is the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, an effective plan in raising public awareness about domestic human trafficking, in forming partnerships with non-governmental and private organizations and in bringing domestic traffickers to justice. Through the campaign’s website (https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign) people can access an array of resources like a document library, educational materials, awareness training and videos. There is even a digital library. Click on this link to read the department’s Strategy To Combat Human Trafficking, The Importation Of GOODS Produced With Forced Labor, And Child Sexual Exploitation, https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/20_0115_plcy_human-trafficking-forced-labor-child-exploit-strategy.pdf.
Virginia is a human trafficking “hotspot.” Since interstates 64, 95 and 295 intersect in Richmond, the “area has become a playground for traffickers to exploit our children.” [“We need to protect children from human trafficking,” http://richmondfreepress.com/news/2020/apr/30/we-need-protect-children-human-trafficking/]
In 2017, the Commonwealth reportedly “had the 4th highest number of federal prosecutions in the nation for child sex trafficking.” [“What steps state leaders and a nonprofit are taking to fight human trafficking,” https://www.wtvr.com/news/local-news/what-steps-state-leaders-and-a-nonprofit-are-taking-to-fight-human-trafficking]. In 2018, Virginia was ranked sixth in the nation for active human trafficking cases, with nearly 200 reported cases. Most of the victims were women; the highest percentage of cases were in the sex trafficking.
Since implementation of the 2000 federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Virginia has been improving its efforts to combat human trafficking. The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services’ 2019 report, The State of Human Trafficking in Virginia, spotlights significant legislation executed in Virginia since 2018. Attached to the report are Five Year Status Report: Laying the Foundation for Virginia’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking and the efforts of the Anti-Human Trafficking Coordinating Committee. You can access the report at https://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/sites/dcjs.virginia.gov/files/publications/victims/state-human-trafficking-virginia.pdf.
In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice distributed over $8 million for Virginia to combat human trafficking. The funds were given to nonprofits and other groups to supply “housing assistance for victims, services for minors and even a half million was granted to Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General to support a task force.” [“What steps state leaders and a nonprofit are taking to fight human trafficking,” https://www.wtvr.com/news/local-news/what-steps-state-leaders-and-a-nonprofit-are-taking-to-fight-human-trafficking]
The following awards were issued to organizations in Virginia:
|Awardee||Program||Amount of Award|
|Office of Attorney General of Virginia||Enhanced Collaborative Model (ECM) Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking||$525,352|
|Transitions Family Violence Services||Enhanced Collaborative Model (ECM) Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking||$588,868|
|ICF Incorporated, LLC||Enhanced Collaborative Model (ECM) Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking||$1,499,911|
|International Association of Chiefs of Police:||Enhanced Collaborative Model (ECM) Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking||$2,500,000|
|National White Collar Crime Center||Enhanced Collaborative Model (ECM) Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking||$1,000,000|
|Survivor Ventures||Housing Assistance Grants for Victims of Human Trafficking||$498,546|
|Transitions Family Violence Services||Housing Assistance Grants for Victims of Human Trafficking||$368,130|
|Virginia Department of Criminal Justice||Services for Minor Victims of Sex Trafficking||$1,684,000|
Selected Other State Resources
The Virginia Department of Social Services offers prevention training designed for local departments of social services staff and community partners within the Commonwealth. See https://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/trafficking/index.cgi. The Virginia Department of Justice Services provides links to some federal government resources at https://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/victims-services/human-trafficking/human-trafficking-resources-victims. The Virginia Department of Education also has links to resources. Check out https://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/prevention/human_trafficking/index.shtml.
Fay Chelmow, a nurse and founder of nonprofit IMPACT Virginia, believes human trafficking is not only a criminal justice issue but also a public health emergency. “The estimates that we have out there are shocking and the numbers are going up every year. They are never going down. Human trafficking is a crime against a person. It’s exploitation against a person….It’s using force, fraud and coercion to control a person completely. Physically and mentally and there is no safe way to leave.” Chelmow’s nonprofit has joined with VCU’s School of Medicine to create a curriculum for medical students. “It falls in line with their mission to educate healthcare workers to recognize red flags, respond to human trafficking victims, and be a lifeline.” [“What steps state leaders and a nonprofit are taking to fight human trafficking,” https://www.wtvr.com/news/local-news/what-steps-state-leaders-and-a-nonprofit-are-taking-to-fight-human-trafficking] Betweeb January 19, 2021 and January 23, 2021 ImPACT Virginia and the VCU School of Medicine are sponsoring the 3rd Annual Medical Symposium on Human Trafficking. See this link for more details: https://ovc.ojp.gov/events/3rd-annual-medical-symposium-human-trafficking.
The Richmond Justice Initiative (RJI) is another non-profit working “locally and nationally to eradicate human trafficking.” RJI uses various tools to achieve its mission including an award winning youth education program with a prevention curriculum; training for educators, social workers and counselors; church and community programs; consultation; and prayer. [Source: https://richmondjusticeinitiative.com/]
The Samaritan House‘s mission is to foster personal safety, growth and self-sufficiency in adults and their children through freedom from sexual and domestic violence, human trafficking and homelessness” in the Hampton Roads area.
The Department of Homeland Defense warns: Do not at any time attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to your suspicions. Contact local law enforcement directly or call these tip lines:
Call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) to report suspicious criminal activity to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line. The line is accessible outside the United States by calling 802-872-6199.
To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733). The NHTH can help connect victims with area service providers for training, technical assistance and other resources. The NHTH is not a law enforcement or immigration agency; it’s run by a federally funded nongovernmental organization. [“Identify A Victim,” https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/identify-victim?utm_source=google.com&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=rg.search-fy21.broad-allcit&utm_content=human&utm_term=human%20trafficking%20and%20law%20enforcement]