Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General
202 North Ninth Street
For media inquiries only, contact:
Charlotte Gomer, Director of Communication
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
HAMPTON ROADS HUMAN TRAFFICKING TASK FORCE SELECTED TO PARTICIPATE IN FEDERAL TRAFFICKSTOP PILOT PROGRAM
~ Task Force one of two sites chosen nationally to participate in federal program to educate high school youth about human trafficking; Attorney General Herring was instrumental in the creation of the Task Force ~
RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark R. Herring is announcing that the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force (Task Force) has been selected as one of two sites nationally to participate in the federal TraffickSTOP (Signs To Observe and Prevent) pilot program to educate high school youth about human trafficking. This program will be a collaboration between the Task Force, the Newport News Police Department, and Newport News Public Schools. Attorney General Herring was instrumental in the creation of the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force and the Task Force Coordinator is housed in the Office of the Attorney General.
“I am incredibly proud of the work that the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force has done to combat human trafficking in the region, and their selection to participate in this program shows just how impactful their work has been,” said Attorney General Herring. “The sad reality is that unscrupulous people will prey on young, impressionable people, which is why it’s so important that Virginia’s youth are armed with the tools they need to help protect themselves and others. I want to thank both the Newport News Police Department and Newport News Public Schools for partnering with the Task Force on this important initiative.”
TraffickSTOP is both a human trafficking identification and prevention curriculum for high school students, as well as a training for law enforcement to deliver the curriculum in schools. Newport News School resource officers will deliver the curriculum to students, along with members of the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force and others, and with support from other community stakeholders. The federal program is supported by the Office for Victims of Crime, the Office of Justice Programs, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). NW3C worked with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Association of School Resources Officers to produce a toolkit that contained the curriculum, materials and resources that will be implemented in Norfolk Public Schools, and other selected schools.
Goals of the TraffickSTOP program:
- Educate students on identification and prevention of human trafficking and child exploitation
- Promote online safety and building healthy relationships
- Strengthen partnerships between School Resource Officers, the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, and schools
“The Newport News Police Department is excited to participate in the TraffickSTOP pilot program during the 2021-2022 school year. Our youth are near and dear to us and they play a major role in our city’s future. We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with Newport News Public Schools and the Office of the Attorney General to better educate and protect our youth from the dangers of human trafficking,” said Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew.
About the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force
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.
Attorney General Herring’s Work Combatting Human Trafficking
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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