Attorney General uses technology to fight human trafficking

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – It’s not hard to find ads selling sex in Hampton Roads. Websites like Backpage and Craigslist have post after post, but some of the ads are for woman and men being held against their wills.

“They will find vulnerable children that are looking for acceptance,” said Del. Jennifer McClellan.

Photos: New ads to fight human trafficking

Before they know it teenagers get sucked in and are forced to have money for sex.

Herring says the state is vulnerable, because of the ports and major interstates making it very hard to stop.

“It is a big challenge,” Herring added.  “More and more folks are recognizing what human trafficking is and how dehumanize it is.”

Through September 30, 2015, Virginia has had the 9th most cases reported to the Center, after having the 5th most cases in 2014.

Through September 30, 2015, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline has received more than 490 calls referencing 112 reported cases of human trafficking in Virginia. Around 80 percent of the cases from Virginia involve women, and at least 35 cases have involved U.S. citizens. Sex trafficking has accounted for 71 percent of cases, and forced labor another 22 percent.

Monday, Herring announced the latest step in his fight. For at least the next six months, multilingual online ads will combat trafficking in Virginia by giving victims access to support and restoration resources, raising awareness about the warning signs of human trafficking, and sending a clear message to those who would exploit or traffic victims that Virginia is watching and will hold them accountable. The ads, which will be in English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese have been geo-fenced to appear on mobile devices with in a quarter-mile of rest areas on major interstate highways and will appear on websites where the services of human trafficking victims are often purchased for prostitution or domestic work. The ad placements will be updated dynamically to target the websites and rest areas that produce the most engagement and refer the most visits to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center website.

“Rather than targeting the general public with our message we are targeting those who are actually involved in human trafficking the traffickers, their victims and those who would exploit them,” Herring said. “A lot of folks need to recognize how much harm is being done.”

“Human trafficking is a significant problem in Virginia and it is critical that survivors are aware they can be connected to services and support,” added Courtney Walsh with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. “Novel awareness efforts like the campaign from the Virginia Attorney General’s Office help ensure the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number reaches victims who need it most.”

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