NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Tuesday formally announced the creation of a new human trafficking task force in Hampton Roads.
Herring announced in November that a $1.45 million federal grant had been secured to help launch the task force.
The task force will consist of a multitude of local and state agencies, including Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton and Newport News police departments, and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
HSI Special Agent in Charge Michael Lamonea called sex trafficking a “heinous crime. ”
“They could be your neighbor. It’s a matter of really focusing on the anomalies that you see. People that are not allowed to leave a workplace or folks that are maybe controlled by an individual in the sex trade,” he said.
The grant will reportedly reimburse local police departments for the time spent investigating human trafficking cases.
Herring, joined by local partners, announced the task force Tuesday morning in Norfolk.
Police Chief Larry Boone said Norfolk will contribute two investigators as needed.
“Last year, Hampton Roads ranked 12th in the state for reported cases of human trafficking that exploited children, women, and men that were used for sex and labor…It is paramount that we work together to educate and inform our citizens to increase awareness and sustain our efforts to end this injustice,” he said.
According to a news release from Herring’s office, Virginia had the 15th highest number of human trafficking cases reported to a national hotline last year and experts think Virginia’s central location along interstate corridors makes it vulnerable to the crime.