Human Trafficking a Growing Problem in Charlottesville

Though it is often hard to uncover, police say human trafficking — including sex trafficking — is happening more and more in central Virginia. “It’s a silent crime. It’s hidden from common observation, much more so than illegal narcotics trafficking,” said Col. Steve Sellers with the Albemarle County Police Department.

Col. Sellers says human trafficking can involve many forms of extortion. Sex trafficking, which falls under the umbrella of human trafficking, can be tied to underage sex acts, child pornography and commonly prostitution, among others. Both types are occurring in Albemarle County, according to Col. Sellers, and he says the victims are primarily foreign nationals.

He says human trafficking is one of the least understood crimes — even for law enforcement — and admits more training is needed to better distinguish it from other issues. That takes educating the patrol force, a different approach to interviewing subjects and the involvement of victim counselors — all things the department is taking steps to improve.

Timothy Heaphy from the U.S. Attorney’s Office has established a human trafficking task force for this part of the state. It will give law enforcement an opportunity to tackle the crime with a multi-disciplinary, regional approach.

“These cases have large tentacles,” said Col. Sellers. “If we have a human trafficking case here in Albemarle County, in all likelihood it’s going to go throughout the state, and throughout the nation and, in some cases, throughout the world.”

Learn more at the article: Police: Human Sex Trafficking a Growing Problem.


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