Virginia is exploring ways to prevent human trafficking

The commission’s final report recommended tougher punishments for sex offenders, as well as increased education and training for police, health workers and teachers.

Human trafficking experts say the problem is all around us, and an annual study conducted in Virginia has produced several recommendations to combat human trafficking for sex and work relationships.

Virginia Commission to Prevent Human Trafficking and Support Survivorscreated last year by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, presented its final report in January insisting on tougher penalties and more education and training for police, health workers and teachers so that victims of human trafficking can be more easily identified.

“I think it’s really important for us to understand that human trafficking is now affecting every zip code in America…we now estimate that there are about 14,000 victims in the Commonwealth, about 1/3 of them are in Northern Virginia,” – said Brittany Dunn of Alexandria, founder and chief operating officer of Project Safe House and one of the 18 members of the governor’s human trafficking commission.

Human trafficking ranges from families exploiting their own children to criminal enterprises that traffic mainly in women for the sex trade, including escort services and illegal massages. However, the problem runs deep into the workforce.

According to Project Polaris, which operates a national human trafficking hotline, people who have been trafficked work in restaurants, factories, commercial janitorial services, hotels, construction, landscaping, and services. health and beauty services such as nail salons.

“Labor trafficking is very common, and in all these different settings, we need to know how we can identify vulnerable people,” Dunn said.

Among the commission’s recommendations are increased law enforcement, the closure of illegal massage businesses, and increased punishment for both traffickers and prostitutes.

The panel also called for increased partnerships with task forces working against online crimes against children.

Another key recommendation is to improve education and training so that law enforcement, health professionals, teachers and students can more easily identify victims of human trafficking.

The report also calls for increased funding to provide more resources, including mental and behavioral health, for victim recovery.

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