Opinion: Commentary: Working To Stop Human Trafficking

Opinion: Commentary: Working To Stop Human Trafficking

There are many benefits to living in Northern Virginia. We have great schools, great shopping, arts and entertainment, and all within short distance of our nation’s capital. There’s something for everyone in Northern Virginia. However, Northern Virginia with all of her opportunities, can and does attract dark elements of society. One such element, is human trafficking.

Human trafficking is essentially a modern-day slavery, where traffickers prey on individuals, such as young teen or pre-teen children. Human trafficking typically occur in three ways. Labor trafficking which is when people are forced to work against their will in many different industries; Domestic servitude, specifically maids, housekeepers, and child or elderly care givers; and sex trafficking which is the selling of victims to perform sexual services for customers.

And yes … human trafficking does occur right here in Northern Virginia. In fact, it occurs quite often. The Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is working to put a stop to human trafficking.

Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a regional collaboration of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, government agencies and citizens dedicated to identifying and rescuing victims; investigating and prosecuting perpetrators; offering support and services to survivors and families; and promoting community awareness. Educating citizens of Northern Virginia about what is occurring in plain sight throughout our neighborhoods, how to identify and spot the potential signs of someone being trafficked, and how and where to report it is an important step toward curtailing these horrible crimes. The task force facilitates training sessions for residents of Northern Virginia at home owner associations (HOAs), schools, churches, public meetings and many other venues.

The task force is preparing its schedule to facilitate future presentations, hoping to partner with more members of the community, churches, HOAs and other groups during 2019.

The true number of individuals currently being trafficked for sex is unknown. Experts believe that only a small minority of trafficking victims are brought to light. According to law enforcement records obtained by the task force, approximately 500 sex trafficking victims were brought to the attention of law enforcement between calendar years 2013 and 2017.

This averages out to 125 sex trafficking victims identified in our area per year. The 125 victims include teen and pre-teen children in our area. Traffickers are experts at seeking out their victims and can usually tell within 30 seconds whether or not the youth they are sizing up would make a good victim for sex trafficking.

An effective way to join the fight against human trafficking in Northern Virginia is by hosting a speaker at your community center, social group, workplace, church or house of worship, association or other organization. Although the task force is always looking for volunteers, you will not be pressured to join or lead any future activities. The task force’s goal for these presentations to to educate the community about human trafficking.

The task force has trained speakers available and are able to gear presentations to specific needs a group may have. Presentations followed by a questions and answers period typically last one hour, but can be tailored for specific needs. To request a speaker or inquire about an education event, one can visit the task force’s website at https://www.novahti.com/requestaspeaker/ or contact the task force coordinator at NVHTTF@GMAIL.COM

The writer is a freelance contributor and Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force volunteer.