Delegate Barbara Comstock (R-34) will host a town hall meeting on Friday, May 3, with U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10), Del. Tim Hugo (R-40), the Richmond Justice Initiative and a panel of local experts, federal and state officials to educate the community about human sex trafficking in Virginia and both how the commonwealth is cracking down on this growing crime and how residents can further increase awareness of the threat posed in the area.
The Human Trafficking Forum will be held on Friday, May 3, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the McLean Community Center, Community Hall, 1234 Ingleside Ave. in McLean.
Featured panelists include: Del. Comstock; Dr. Courtney Gaskins, Youth For Tomorrow; Del. Hugo; Sara Pomeroy, Richmond Justice Initiative; U.S. Rep. Wolf; Det. Bill Woolf, Fairfax County Police Department; Staca Shehan, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; and Holly Alfano, NATSO.
Del. Comstock has been working with U.S. Rep. Wolf and community groups as well as state and federal agencies to address human sex trafficking in Virginia. This legislative session, Del. Comstock was a chief co-patron of HB 1606, which was introduced by Del. Hugo. This legislation makes soliciting a minor younger than 16 years of age a Class 5 felony and any person who solicits prostitution from a minor 16 years of age or older is guilty of a Class 6 felony. Del. Comstock was also a chief co-patron of HB 1870, which allows a multijurisdiction grand jury to investigate human sex trafficking cases where the suspect received money for procuring another individual to engage in prostitution.
Delegate Comstock's legislation from the 2012 session, HB 546, cracks down on those engaged in human trafficking and provides additional penalties and tools for prosecutors. HB 546 addresses the growth of gangs, such as MS-13, operating prostitution rings in the area who are now engaged in this heinous crime. These criminal traffickers have victimized women and girls in our area, exploiting them as part of their crime operations.
This forum will be held as a part of Del. Comstock's efforts to ensure that residents are educated on recent events exposing the human trafficking going on in our area and on how to become more effective advocates on halting this threat. The representatives listed above will make a presentation informing residents about recent cases of human trafficking in Virginia, what officials and organizations are doing to combat this problem, and will address questions from the audience.