By Mark Robinson
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Legislation to curtail human trafficking in Virginia has gathered bipartisan support early in the General Assembly’s 2013 session.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli called the offense one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the country. He said Tuesday that Virginia was feeling the effect.
“Traffickers profit from the control and exploitation of children and adults – taking victims by threat, force, or coercion to exploit them for forced labor or sexual servitude. And it is happening right here in our commonwealth,” Cuccinelli said at a press conference.
Additionally, Cuccinelli announced a series of two-day training sessions for law enforcement and prosecutors across the state over the next six months. The first session starts today (Wednesday) in Northern Virginia.
The attorney general has a history of supporting measures to curb human trafficking. He introduced bills to combat the crime during his stint as a state senator and served on a human trafficking advisory group.
Cuccinelli pledged his support to the four bills and urged legislators to pass them:
- House Bill 1606, sponsored by Delegate Timothy Hugo, R-Fairfax, and Senate Bill 1015, by Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston: These measures would increase the penalty for soliciting prostitution from a minor from a misdemeanor to a Class 5 or Class 6 felony, depending on the victim’s age.
- HB 1870, sponsored by Delegate Robert Bell, R-Charlottesville: This bill would alter Virginia’s basic human trafficking statute to include “receiving money for procuring a person” as an offense punishable by a multijurisdictional grand jury. Jurisdiction would not be an issue in prosecuting human traffickers operating across county lines.
- HB 1826, sponsored by Delegate Ronald Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach: This measure would also address issues in jurisdiction when investigating human trafficking. It would allow officers to keep pursuing an investigation into human trafficking outside of their own jurisdiction.
Both Republicans and Democrats joined Cuccinelli to express support for the legislation. They included Howell, Hugo and Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly.