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Attorney General Cuccinelli helps law enforcement across commonwealth target and prosecute human trafficking  

- Virginia among "most improved states" for trafficking laws - rating is "one of the biggest jumps this year" -

* Attendees available for comment *


RICHMOND (August 25, 2011) - Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) hosted a first-of-its-kind (in Virginia) all-day training seminar this week on human trafficking as part of the ongoing effort by the attorney general, law enforcement, and advocacy groups to target and prosecute human trafficking in the commonwealth.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world and is a form of modern-day slavery where traffickers profit from the control and exploitation of others. Trafficking includes recruiting or taking victims by threat, force, coercion, or deception for the purpose of exploiting them for labor or sexual activities. Labor trafficking ranges from domestic servitude and small-scale labor operations to large-scale farms, sweatshops, and major multinational corporations. Sex trafficking is one of the most profitable forms and includes prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and the commercial sexual abuse of children.

Teams comprised of one detective, one prosecutor, and one victim-witness coordinator from various jurisdictions around the commonwealth were paired up and trained how to define trafficking, identify the victims, and target the traffickers. The seminar also presented information regarding current Virginia trafficking laws, and provided the attorneys with strategies for prosecuting traffickers.

Presentations were given by law enforcement officers, as well as attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Virginia attorney general's office. Representatives from the Polaris Project, a national anti-human trafficking advocacy group, spoke on the role of nonprofit organizations in providing victim services and on Virginia resources for victims.

"The types of crimes that these traffickers are committing are terrifying and deplorable-we certainly have our work cut out for us," said Cuccinelli. "However, I'm confident that we can make tremendous strides as long as we continue to work together with local and federal law enforcement, prosecutors, and victims' advocates as a comprehensive team."

Virginia among "most improved states" for trafficking laws

As a result of the work of the partnerships between the attorney general, law enforcement, and advocacy groups during the past year, Virginia has improved its human trafficking laws so greatly that the Polaris Project has named Virginia among the "most improved states of 2010." During Cuccinelli's tenure as attorney general, Virginia's rating for trafficking laws has been upgraded from "red" to "yellow," one of the biggest jumps this year, according to James Dold, policy counsel for Polaris Project.

"Human trafficking is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time, and we our grateful for the leadership Attorney General Cuccinelli has shown in the fight against this form of modern-day slavery," said Dold. "The attorney general's office has done an amazing job taking this issue head on and we are looking forward to continuing our work together to further strengthen the laws in Virginia and save lives."

Stopping human trafficking a priority for attorney general

Human trafficking has been a particular point of interest for the attorney general. Then-Senator Cuccinelli introduced anti-human trafficking legislation in the 2006 and 2007 General Assembly sessions. In addition, Cuccinelli served on the Human Trafficking Commission from 2007 to 2008, working to develop and implement a plan for the prevention of the crime in Virginia.

Cuccinelli has continued his anti-human trafficking work as attorney general by working with advocacy groups, supporting past trafficking legislation, and pushing for new legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session. Additionally, he has appointed assistant attorney general Erin Kulpa, who spearheaded the planning and implementation of this week's seminar, as the point person for all human trafficking issues.

The attorney general also plans to work with DCJS to host future seminars to further the education of law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim-witness coordinators.

Attendees are available for comment:

Kelli Burnett, Senior Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney
Richmond City Commonwealth's Attorney's Office
804-646-2970 (Direct line)

Anetra Robinson, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney
Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney's Office
757-664-4864 (Direct line)

Lt. Chris Marsh, Assistant Commander
Organized Crime and Narcotics Division
Fairfax County Police Department
703-802-2712 (Direct line)

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A copy of this news release may be found on the attorney general's web site here.

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