Virginia Lawmakers Say we Have Strong Human Trafficking Laws - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Virginia Lawmakers Say we Have Strong Human Trafficking Laws

Posted: Updated:

We're digging deeper into the facts behind Virginia human trafficking laws.

There are no laws specifically using the words "human trafficking" in the commonwealth, but local lawmakers and the Attorney General's office say current laws are strong enough and the key is officer education.

"We're well aware of human trafficking along the I-81 coorIdior as well as drug dealing because of what I-81 is, it's a major corridor," said Virginia State Senator John Edwards.

"It's a big issue, both with workers in Virginia trafficking people to Virginia and passing through Virginia," said Virginia Delegate Greg Habeeb.

Although the two lawmakers may be on different sides of the aisle, they agree human trafficking is a problem. Both lawmakers serve on the commerce and labor committees.

We talked to them about the Roanoke County case of potential human trafficking.

"It appears in this case the lack of the words 'human trafficking' in the criminal code may have been an issue, so will go back and look at that," said Habeeb, who says the current laws may already be strong enough and that officers may have had legal reason to hold a van full of 17 people but didn't realize it. "We actually have a lot of laws on the books in Virginia regarding human trafficking. The criminal codes don't use the phrase 'human trafficking'; they talk about procuring a person for forced labor, obtaining money to transport individuals, there's a lot of sex-related crimes."

"Apparently they thought they were in that van to get visas or something like that," Edwards said. "That's fraud. I can think of a number of laws--conspiracy to violate their civil rights--there are a whole series of potential laws that could have applied."

The Attorney General's office says for the past two years they've been going across the state holding seminars to educate police officers about what laws are on the books to combat human trafficking. They sent us 17 pages of laws, which they share during the training, that they say can be used to combat the growing problem.

"I'm hoping this will be a good example of educating police officers all over Virginia," Edwards said. "This is a problem in Virginia. There are laws that do apply and if some laws need to be added or we need to fix some laws, I think we should."

Officer Jessica Price, who made the Roanoke County traffic stop, will be in meetings all day Friday. She believes her stop didn't meet the criteria for current laws. In the meeting, she'll be looking over current legislation to see if laws need to be changed for future human trafficking incidents or if something was missed.