Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General
202 North Ninth Street
For media inquiries only, contact:
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING EXPANDS WORK TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN HAMPTON ROADS
~ Herring has secured a $525,000 grant that will fund the continued work of the task force for three more years and allow the task force to expand into new localities including the city of Williamsburg, the town of Smithfield, and Mathews, Accomack and Northampton Counties ~
RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has secured $525,000 in federal grant funding to continue the work of the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force (HRHTTF) for at least three more years and allow the Task Force to expand into new localities, including the city of Williamsburg, the town of Smithfield, and Mathews, Accomack, and Northampton Counties. The grant funding will also support the Task Force Coordinator, who is housed in the Office of the Attorney General and pay for overtime for law enforcement who are working on human trafficking cases. The funding is through the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office for Victims of Crime (OVC).
“I am incredibly proud of the work that the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force has done since its inception in 2017. This new round of grant funding will allow the Task Force to continue their important work and will help us make even more progress in combating human trafficking in the Hampton Roads area, including these new localities,” said Attorney General Herring. “The reality of human trafficking is that it doesn’t involve vast conspiracies or wild things you might hear about online. Most often it involves vulnerable individuals who are lured into dangerous situations with promise of financial support, stability, or acceptance.
“By raising awareness about its existence in Virginia and providing critical resources we can help communities and provide victims with a path to justice and healing. I want to thank all our partners, both local and federal, for their support and hard work in our ongoing fight to stop human trafficking in the Commonwealth.”
In 2016, Attorney General Herring secured the original grant funding, totaling $1.45 million, to create the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, which then launched in January 2017. The Task Force is a collaboration between Office of Attorney General Mark Herring, Homeland Security Investigations, Samaritan House, Transitions Family Violence Services, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Virginia State Police, and law enforcement agencies and prosecutors from Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake. Additionally, the city of Portsmouth later joined as well.
The Task Force takes a comprehensive approach to human trafficking that meets the personal needs of victims and the public safety goals of the community. The HRHTTF has an Executive Committee that oversees operations, a Victim Services committee that has brought together both community-based and systems-based organizations to determine the needs and gaps in services for victims, a Law Enforcement and Prosecution committee to investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking cases, and an Outreach and Training Committee to provide awareness and training to a wide range of stakeholders, including law enforcement, prosecutors, schools, colleges, faith-based communities, hotels, airlines, airports, probation and parole, juvenile services, and community members.
To date, the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force has opened 337 investigations, made 135 arrests, identified 227 confirmed victims, and prosecuted 38 cases. The Outreach and Training committee has provided 52 trainings to various community groups, such as Newport News Neighborhood Watch Coalition, and the TSA at the Norfolk Airport; 28 outreach events that included efforts at the Norfolk Airport and Bus Terminal, outreach to the Native American Community and the Hotel/Motel Industry. In addition, the HRHTTF partnered with the Richmond Regional Minor Victim of Human Trafficking program to provide training to law enforcement, prosecutors, and juvenile probation officers.
“This grant has enabled the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force to exponentially expand efforts to combat human trafficking in southeastern Virginia,” said Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Washington, D.C. “It provides resources to a collective group of law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations to conduct victim-centered trafficking investigations where the rescue and stabilization of victims is on par with the prosecution of traffickers.”
“We are excited about expanding our services to serve survivors of human trafficking. Human trafficking has been has increased significantly, with limited services on the Virginia Peninsula, this grant will help us develop critical services for survivors of trafficking to feel safe, heal from trauma, while discovering how they want to live their lives. This partnership with the Attorney General’s Office and the Human Trafficking Task Force promotes are collective expansion and impact in Hampton Roads,” said Sanu Dieng, Executive Director, Transitions Family Violence Services.
“We are thrilled the Task Force is has been provided continued funding. We have made so much progress in holding perpetrators accountable and providing victims with support, we look forward to working directly with the Task Force and continuing the progress that has been made in our region,” said Robin Gauthier, Executive Director, Samaritan House.
Attorney General Herring has made combating human trafficking in the Commonwealth a top priority. In December 2014, Attorney General Herring launched a statewide human trafficking awareness campaign to raise awareness in Virginia of human trafficking and the resources available to victims and a year later he added an online component to that campaign. In 2016, Attorney General Herring secured a $1.45 million grant to fund the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, which launched the following January. The OAG initially partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Samaritan House, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Virginia State Police, and law enforcement agencies from Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake for the Task Force. The HRHTTF has since grown to incorporate other partners and localities. Attorney General Herring and the Task Force launched a regional awareness campaign in May 2018 and placed billboards on major highways across Hampton Roads, encouraging victims or those with information about possible human trafficking to contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline. In June 2018, Governor Northam signed Attorney General Herring’s bill that adds offenses related to human trafficking to the list of crimes for which bail can be denied, keeping traffickers in jail and better protecting trafficking victims. That legislation was a recommendation from the Task Force. Most recently, last fall Attorney General Herring and members of the Richmond Regional Human Trafficking Collaborative announced new initiatives to improve the way the Richmond Region responds to human trafficking including a new case manager position, housed in the OAG, that is focused on juvenile victims; stakeholder trainings; and expanded victims services.
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