The Western District of Virginia human trafficking task force met in Roanoke for the first time Friday.
Putting a stop to human trafficking is being compared to stopping gangs.
"When Gangs were first being investigated most folks in Virginia, not all, but most said that must be a problem that's happening somewhere else," said said John Childrey, the Deputy Attorney General for Public Safety and Enforcement. "I often say there are parts of the state where there are more resources available to deal with a starving horse than there are for an actual human victim of a human trafficking ring and that needs to stop."
Task forces, like in northern Virginia, have worked in other parts of the Commonwealth in finding victims and breaking up trafficking rings--- we're told they've prosecuted more than 20 cases and rescued hundreds of victims across the state.
"A high school girl, a minor, very good grades, very to middle upper-middle-class family, the last person an outsider would suspect would be trafficked but she was. She was recruited by social networking sites, she was ordered to go around, driven around, forced to have sex against her will multiple times in a weekend, would be able to go home at night," said Childrey who says when girls try to leave, traffickers threaten to hurt their families.
The Western District task force will break southwest Virginia into regions, centered around U.S. Attorneys' offices, sharing information and training law enforcement.
"There are investigations underway in the Western District. Obviously I can't talk about them because they are ongoing investigations but I think the more awareness we have, the greater results we're going to see but that is a process," said Tony Giorno, First Assistant to the United States Attorney and human trafficking coordinator for the Western District of Virginia.
The task force will be co-led by the Office of the Virginia Attorney General and U.S. Attorney's Office. It's being described as "highly organized" and a little different than other human trafficking task forces. It will include law enforcement and victims service providers from all over the area including churches and non-profit organizations.
"It's going to require a victim to be made safe, secure. Given clean clothes, given a place to stay for a while, an advocate on their side and that something is a little bit outside the normal paradigm of law-enforcement," said Childrey.
As we've reported, downtown Roanoke's Straight Street is working to bring a human trafficking shelter to the area to help in the process.
WSLS will of course continue to follow this issue.
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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