To the Editor:
Your article, "Money, Lax Laws Draw Sex Traffickers” (Connection, January 21-27) states “Last year, before the state of Virginia passed its first sex trafficking laws, SB 1188 and HB 1964, it was the last state in the United States with any sex trafficking legislation.” The headline and this second paragraph would make one think that sex trafficking was not illegal in Virginia. This notion is utterly false. It has been illegal for hundreds of years. Just look at the Virginia Code: Article 2.1 Crimes by Gangs, Article 3 Kidnapping and Related Offenses, Article 4 Assaults and Bodily Woundings, Article 6 Extortion and Other Threats, and Article 7 Criminal Sexual Assault. Also remember, in 1994, Virginia eliminated parole. I can assure you that anyone convicted of human trafficking related felonies under these articles does lots and lots of prison time.
Human trafficking has always been illegal. In fact, a number of years ago, an organization made a ridiculous accusation that Virginia’s laws were weak on human trafficking. I commissioned a study by the Virginia State Crime Commission to look at every act this organization alleged was involved in human trafficking to see if there were any gaps in our laws. The result of the study showed that every single act was already illegal except for withholding a passport to force a person into prostitution. So we made that a felony.
The article says that HB 1964 and SB 1188 were our first human trafficking laws. Our first human trafficking laws were passed in the 1600s. What these two bills did was increase punishments on certain crimes that can be labeled as “human trafficking.” We were very proud to have passed them. But all the acts were already illegal.
People can castigate Virginia on a number of issues. We don’t have the same welfare benefits as other states, and because of our low tax rate, we don’t have the same level of services as other states. However, I can assure you that being weak on crime is certainly not a claim that applies to Virginia.
Del. Dave Albo (R-42)
Chairman, Courts of Justice Committee