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Image of the Virginia AG Seal

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

HERRING, SAMARITAN HOUSE, HAMPTON ROADS LAW ENFORCEMENT SIGN MOA CREATING HAMPTON ROADS HUMAN TRAFFICKING TASK FORCE

~ Memorandum of Agreement formalizes commitments of the OAG, service providers, and local/federal law enforcement in Hampton Roads to centralize and coordinate the region's response to human trafficking ~

NORFOLK (January 31, 2017)-As National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness  Month comes to a close, Attorney General Mark R. Herring, Virginia Beach anti-human trafficking non-profit Samaritan House, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and law enforcement from Hampton Roads cities today gathered at the YWCA of South Hampton Roads to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) officially creating the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force. The Task Force, which will be support by a $1.4 million federal grant secured by Task Force partners, will be a multidisciplinary force to fight human trafficking in Hampton Roads by identifying, rescuing, and restoring victims, building awareness about the realities of human trafficking in the region and across Virginia, and by investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes.

 

"I'm really proud and excited to get this Task Force up and running because there are victims out there right now waiting for a hand to help them break free," said Attorney General Herring. "These are complex, traumatic crimes that call for a comprehensive response to effectively meet the needs of a victim while holding their trafficker accountable. That's why this Task Force will include victims' service providers working hand-in-hand with law enforcement and prosecutors. It's really inspiring to see a community come together like this to send a clear and unmistakable signal that we do not tolerate human trafficking in Virginia and we will always be waiting to help anyone looking for a lifeline and for support."

 

The Task Force will include the Office of Attorney General Herring, Samaritan House, HSI and the police departments and commonwealth's attorneys of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Hampton, and Newport News. The Task Force's comprehensive and collaborative nature will bring a victim-centered approach to the fight against the trafficking of persons, and will strengthen ties between victim services, law enforcement and the community in order to identify victims and provide the support they needed as they recover.

 

"Samaritan House is thrilled to be working with the Attorney General's office in combating human trafficking," said Robin Gauthier, Executive Director of Samaritan House. "The collaboration has been effective in identifying victims, as we have already seen an increase of referrals from the announcement of the task force." 

 

"Today's signing ceremony marks a momentous occasion for law enforcement, prosecutors and nonprofit organizations in Hampton Roads working to aid victims of human trafficking while bringing to justice individuals who exploit human lives," said Michael Lamonea, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Norfolk. "As part of the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, we have pooled our resources and expertise to fight this heinous crime."

 

Each Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force partner has committed to:

  • Provide mutual assistance in investigations
  • Assist with determining whether cases should be prosecuted in state or federal court
  • Use a victim centered approach in investigating and prosecuting cases of sex and labor trafficking
  • Utilize task force policies and protocols for identifying victims, recovering victims, and investigating cases of human trafficking
  • Provide assistance to victims and make appropriate referrals
  • Attend and participate in task force meetings, community events and trainings
  • Attend task force sponsored and required trainings for investigating and prosecuting cases of human trafficking
  • Provide the Task Force coordinator with case information, arrest data, victim data, prosecuting data, and personnel time dedicated to task force related events and investigations

The creation of the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force earned the support of a diverse set of partners, including the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, the FBI, the Department of Labor, and the Commonwealth's Attorneys and police chiefs of several Hampton Roads cities.

 

Experts believe that Virginia's central location along major interstate corridors and its international points of connection make it vulnerable to trafficking activity. In 2016, Virginia had the 15th most cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. The hotline received 610 calls reporting 116 cases of human trafficking in Virginia, the majority of which have been for women forced into sex work against their will. In 2015, the hotline received 624 calls referencing 145 cases of human trafficking from Virginia.

 

To combat human trafficking in Virginia, Attorney General Herring has offered additional training to law enforcement, worked on legislation to provide prosecutors and law enforcement with additional tools, and launched a statewide public awareness campaign including an award-winning and ground-breaking online component to target those involved in human trafficking with ads in English, Spanish,Korean, and Vietnamese. This summer, he announced a new partnership with the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign to provide communities and local law enforcement agencies with additional resources and training to combat human trafficking in Virginia.

 

Since 1984, Samaritan House has provided emergency housing, transitional housing, and community outreach to victims of domestic violence and homeless families in Hampton Roads. Samaritan House is committed to fostering personal safety, growth and self-sufficiency in adults and their children through the freedom from sexual and domestic violence and homelessness.

 

HSI is the critical investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and is a vital U.S. asset in combating criminal organizations illegally exploiting America's travel, trade, financial and immigration systems. HSI has broad legal authority to enforce a diverse array of federal statutes, including human trafficking and smuggling, financial crimes like bulk cash smuggling, cybercrimes, document and benefit fraud, weapons and narcotics smuggling, art and antiquities theft, and export enforcement.

 

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