Attorney General Mark Herring is taking his fight against human trafficking to the next level. Maria Odum, Chair of the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign joined Herring to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which establishes a federal-state partnership.
The MOU allows Virginia law enforcement the additional training and resources needed to stop human trafficking within the state. Virginia’s central location and interstate connections make it easily accessible to human traffickers.
Though human trafficking doesn’t make headline news often, it is found in every state in the US. The majority of victims are female with nearly half under the age of 18. Most human trafficking crimes are sex-trafficking related with a much smaller percentage related to labor trafficking. Social media has made it easier than ever for human trafficking offenders to find their targets, especially those who are young and vulnerable.
Herring has spent two years raising awareness of the atrocities of human trafficking. “Human trafficking robs its victims of their freedom, their dignity, and too often their childhood,” he said. He acknowledged that it is a worldwide issue but awareness starts within his state. In addition to offering supplementary training to local law enforcement, Herring has also launched a public awareness campaign across the state in four different languages.
Odum said she was honored to sign the agreement on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, “…because no one fights human trafficking alone.”
Through the agreement, schools and agencies like Child Protective Services (CPS), and the public will have immediate access to additional resources including training and educational materials. Community members will also have the ability to engage in the fight with new online tools.
Virginia ranked #12 in 2016 for calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.