Human trafficking victims could see some relief with this new bill

Gov. Ralph Northam, flanked by local officials, signs a bill, which aims to prevent human trafficking. (HNNDaily staff photo/ Troy Jefferson.)
Gov. Ralph Northam, flanked by local officials, signs a bill, which aims to prevent human trafficking. (Troy Jefferson/Southside Daily)

NORFOLK — Local and state officials are teaming up to keep victims of human trafficking safe.

On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill that adds offenses related to human trafficking to the list of crimes for which bail can be denied.

He was joined by Attorney General Mark Herring, Del. Mike Mullin and Robin Gauthier, executive director of the Samaritan House.

The officials hope the bill, which was signed during a ceremony at the Norfolk Police Department 3rd precinct, will keep traffickers in jail and better protect trafficking victims.

“This is an important piece of legislation,” Mullin said. “This bill will make it harder for offenders to get away with human trafficking. It will put a mechanism in place to disrupt the cycle of abuse.”

The bill was carried during the General Assembly by Mullin and passed both the house and senate.

Northam approved the bill on March 2.

In November 2016, Herring announced a $1.45 million grant that would help fund the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, which then launched in January of 2017.

“This bill born out of the work of the task force is another step we’re taking to keep traffickers in jail and out of our communities and taking the control traffickers have over their victims away,” Herring said.

In 2015, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline received 624 calls referencing 145 cases of human trafficking from Virginia, according to the attorney general’s office.

“Human trafficking is a threat to public safety here in Virginia and across the United States,” Northam said Monday. “This legislation will help us prevent these crimes by making it more difficult for human traffickers to post bail and leave jail to intimidate witnesses or continue their criminal activity. I am proud to sign this legislation today (Monday) and I thank Delegate Mullin and Attorney General Herring for their commitment to this issue.”

The legislation adds the following offenses that are attributable to human trafficking to the list of crimes for which there is a rebuttable presumption against admission to bail:
  • Taking or detaining a person for the purposes of prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse.
  • Receiving money from procuring or placing a person in a house of prostitution or forced labor.
  • Receiving money from the earnings of a prostitute.
  • Commercial sex trafficking, where the alleged victim is a family or household member.

“Protecting people that have been trafficked and abused is our mission, when legislation promotes survivor safety, it’s a shared win every time,” Gauthier said.

Human trafficking is a $150 billion dollar enterprise worldwide, and is widely considered one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world, according to Northam’s office. The United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, with hundreds of thousands of victims in the United States.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.