New partnership launched to battle human trafficking

Richmond Regional Human Trafficking Collaborative to focus on juvenile victims

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The fight against human trafficking is getting a boost in the Commonwealth through the Richmond Regional Human Trafficking Collaborative.

“Virginia’s central location among major interstates and its international connection make it vulnerable to human trafficking activity,” said Attorney General Mark Herring during Tuesday’s announcement.

The collaborative is made up of at least 19 separate entities including the FBI, Bon Secours, local police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among other groups.

“This is not nothing one law enforcement entity can do alone," said Ray Villanueva, a special agent with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations

Herring says in the last two years, at least 22 local human trafficking victims were minors.

“A new case manager position will be created in my office that is focused on juvenile victims, and will provide those victims with tailored services and treatments to fit their circumstances," he added.

Those services may include resources like healthcare, counseling and possibly reuniting with family.

“Many of the victims of human trafficking we see haven’t received basic medical care in years,” said Bonnie Price with Bon Secours Richmond.

The case manager will also provide training for dealing with these young victims, and also expand services.

“It’s is a problem worldwide, including here in Virginia and we can’t pretend that it’s not happening in the Richmond area as well,” said Herring.

Richmond Police Chief William Smith says these crimes are covert, and often hard to spot, adding that police aren’t even "scratching the surface of it. We do everything we can to uncover these crimes.”

Chief Smith does say this new group could be key in helping solve current human trafficking cases in the city of Richmond.

“With the casework involved, and being able to bring additional resources in, that’s going to give us greater capacity in terms of resource availability for the victims,” Smith said.

The state Attorney General adds that the effort was made possible by a $350,000 grant from the Justice Department and that they are still searching for someone to fill that case manager’s role.

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