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Jason Miyares recognizes January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Rebecca Barnabi
jason miyares
(© Michael Robb Photography – Shutterstock)

President Joe Biden has declared January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is reminding Virginians that his office offers resources to combat human trafficking and support survivors, as well as the signs to watch for that might signal a potential human trafficking situation.

Miyares recommitted the Commonwealth’s efforts to large human trafficking networks when he took office, and partnered with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Services Council (CASC), the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the Virginia State Police (VSP) to provide first-of-its-kind training to prosecutors, law enforcement, and from jurisdictions across Virginia on how to investigate and prosecute human trafficking under Virginia law.

“Victims of trafficking are robbed of their autonomy, forced into a life of unspeakable suffering, and subjected to physical, emotional and psychological abuse,” Col. Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said. “Working together with the Attorney General, our local law enforcement partners and community members to end this criminal activity is of utmost importance and we urge others to join us in the fight against human trafficking.”

The Attorney General’s Office also participates in several federal, state and local human trafficking workgroups and task forces. The Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force’s collaborative effort is between federal, state and local law enforcement and investigated a labor trafficking operation that identified more than 100 smuggled El Salvadorians, including children, and resulted in four indictments.

Also making significant strides is the newly formed Virginia Capital Area Human Trafficking Task Force, a collaborative effort between the Virginia State Police, Chesterfield County Police, Henrico County Division of Police and Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. The task force focuses on identifying potentially trafficked persons and connecting them with available support services and resources, as well as investigates exploitation and trafficking of persons of any age and gender.

Miyares recently launched a new anti-human trafficking initiative called the 100% Business Alliance Against Trafficking, a workforce training initiative for businesses to educate their employees on how to recognize possible trafficking incidents within their professional communities. When Virginia businesses equip their employees with education, tools and training, employees become trusted eyes and ears in their communities.

Human trafficking victims can be of any age, race, gender, sex, ethnicity, nationality, immigration status and socioeconomic class and can occur both in legitimate and illegitimate industries. Anyone can be trafficked, but some are more vulnerable than others. No one scenario explains how all victims and survivors wind up in human trafficking situations but recognized patterns include: unstable housing situations, history of or exposure to addiction, history of domestic violence/abuse, poor physical health, and unmet emotional or material needs.

If you believe you have come into contact with a trafficker or trafficking victim, do not attempt to confront a suspect or suspected victim. Call 911 or local authorities if someone is in immediate danger:

  • 24/7 National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1(888)373-7888 – if you or someone you know is being trafficking and need services
  • National Human Trafficking SMS Line: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
  • Text 847411. Send an anonymous tip to that number by typing “VSP” followed by the information you wish to share. If the information you possess concerns a person (or yourself) in imminent danger, dial 911 or #77 on a cell phone. Tips can also be submitted online via www.tip411.com/tips/vastatepolice/new
  • Virginia Child Protection Services Hotline (for juveniles): 1(800)552-7096
  • Virginia Victims Assistance Network (for adults): (833)463-6448

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.