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New Partnership to Combat Human Trafficking in Va

Posted: Updated:
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) -

Virginia law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are teaming up to fight human trafficking.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) says this new partnership means more training and resources for state law enforcement and activists.

The first training sessions will begin in Hampton Roads, but then expand.

"Our own humanity is diminished when we allow it to fester," said Herring.

In Richmond on Wednesday, Herring, Homeland Security officials and employees who work with human trafficking survivors announced a new partnership.

"This is the latest, most comprehensive, most proven education, prevention and training. Resources will be available to Virginia law enforcement and community stakeholders who want to join the fight," said Herring.

Herring thinks the upcoming training sessions will make a difference.

"Whether it's police officers, social workers, teachers, truck drivers, faith leaders, we want to make sure all Virginians know how to recognize a victim in need of intervention," said Herring.

Maria Odom, the chair of the DHS Blue Campaign and Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman, says one challenge is reaching the victims.

"They may be fearful of law enforcement, they may be fearful of retribution from their trafficker, or may not even know that what is happening to them is illegal," said Odom.

Deanna Wallace works with victims in Virginia. She say survivors cope with daily rapes, intimidation and manipulation.

"But they're not looked at as a human being; they're looked at as a product," said Wallace, who is the Virginia victim assistance specialist for DHS and Homeland Security Investigations (ICE).

This effort ultimately aims to get victims help.

"There is hope. There is life after such a terrible ordeal and victims must know their commonwealth and an incredible network of support is standing with them," said Herring.

Experts said victims could appear distressed, as if their movements or money are being controlled by another person, and the abuse often involves forced labor or sex work.

Police and community training sessions begin in August.

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