VSP and Charlottesville task force working to combat human trafficking

VSP and Charlottesville task force working to combat human trafficking
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 9:20 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - State police are working to spread information on human trafficking in Virginia this week, but they are not the only ones in Charlottesville trying to keep people informed.

There is a task force in the city made up of the Foothills Child Advocacy Center, Albemarle County Detectives and UVA doctors among others. Their goal is to fight back against trafficking.

”We do have human trafficking investigations that are currently open,” ACPD Detective Michael Schneider said.

Human trafficking is an invisible problem.

“It is something that you may not see, but just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” Executive Director of Foothills Child Advocacy Center Cynthia Hurst said.

“It’s not just a big city problem. It’s a rural problem as well,” Schneider said.

Schneider says there is a good reason VSP chose to pass out information at truck stops this week.

“Truckers you know, they don’t sit still. They’re all over the country. So they’ll be able to see what’s going on. They will see kids that are either being forced into prostitution or trafficked into prostitution,” Schneider said.

There are signs everyone can look out for.

“People should be looking for anyone who seems like they’re not quite sure where they are,” Hurst said.

“They need to look for kids that they’ve suddenly stopped going to school. Do they appear to be deprived of food, water or even basic necessities like being able to clean themselves?” Schneider said.

“I see all types of child maltreatment, but I think trafficking is one of the more difficult ones to recognize,” UVA Child Abuse Pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Andrews said. “I think anything we can do as a community to help support them will be better for them for their families and for the whole.”

Education is one of the ways to help.

“The other thing is advocating for resources for survivors of trafficking and for their families. There’s just such a huge need for them to have a food, clothing shelter, that’s separate from their trafficker and also access to mental health resources,” Dr. Andrews said.

“If we all work collaboratively, we can make sure that no child falls through the cracks,” Hurst said.

Schneider sent along this statement with resources and indicators to look out for:

“Indicators of Human Trafficking

  • The person appears fearful, depressed, submissive, or paranoid
  • The person appears disconnected from family and friends
  • The child has stopped attending school
  • Another person insists on being present or translating when the person is in the company of others
  • The person may not be free to come and go from work and home as he/she chooses
  • The person has had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior
  • The person lacks knowledge about where he/she is staying or whereabouts or there are numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
  • The person appears harmed, deprived of water, food, sleep, and medical care
  • The person appears to be coached on what to say
  • The person owes a large debt and is restricted on how he/she can pay it off
  • The person is not allowed or able to speak for himself/herself

Human trafficking is a hidden crime. We may not recognize the signs and victims might be afraid or unable to come forward. If anyone has information or suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, please call Crime Stoppers at (434)977-4000

If you need help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline please call (888)373-7888 or text help to BeFree (233733)

The Department of Homeland Security has a website setup specifically for human trafficking. They have resources and awareness videos that can help aid in identifying the signs of human trafficking.”

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