WV to focus on human trafficking awareness in January

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CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey recognizes January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and urges all citizens to participate in eradicating the growing criminal industry.

 Human trafficking is defined as commercial sex or labor that is induced by force, fraud or coercion. It is considered the second largest criminal industry in the world today, second only to drug trafficking according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  
“West Virginians are especially vulnerable to human trafficking because of the opioid epidemic, poverty and a large number of children in foster care,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “A person’s freedom should never be compromised. Equipping law enforcement officers and members of the community with the necessary skills to identify victims is a crucial step in protecting our people.”

In 2017, the Attorney General’s Office established best practices aimed at raising awareness about human trafficking and provided intensive training to hundreds of law enforcement officers, social service workers, students, community members and civic groups across the Mountain State.

 To kick off National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a training session was offered Tuesday to employees of the Raleigh County Youth Reporting Center in Beckley. Workers were educated about signs of human trafficking in children and the proper avenues to take when reporting suspected cases.

Robert Leslie, Senior Deputy Attorney General said a large part of human trafficking we see here in West Virginia, goes along with the opioid  epidemic we are experiencing.

“The addict will turn around and sell a family member in a heartbeat to supply that addiction.  It’s a sad state of affairs but they have lost all sense of humanity because it’s been eaten away by that drug,” said Leslie.

 The Attorney General’s Office plans to continue to host training sessions across West Virginia in the future. The ultimate goal is to establish greater awareness and increase overall reporting of the issue throughout the state.

 Anyone who suspects someone may have been forced into human trafficking should call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-374-7888 and contact local law enforcement.

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