CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Imagine being trapped in conditions so terrible, you are too traumatized to seek help. That’s all too real for those exploited by human trafficking, and West Virginia officials are stepping up efforts to identify and rescue victims.
The W.Va. Intelligence Fusion Center is coordinating an awareness campaign that will include posting key information about human trafficking at welcome centers and rest areas throughout the state.
Modern-day slavery, human trafficking controls, exploits, degrades and dehumanizes people through force, fraud or coercion for their labor or for commercial sex acts. It can also involve the sexual assault or abuse of children when force, fraud or coercion need not be present.
“As the analytical component of the West Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center supports law enforcement in human trafficking operations,” said Fusion Center Director Jack Luikart. “Human trafficking often intersects with the transportation sector and is intensified by the prevalence of the illicit drug trade and addiction epidemic in our state. We feel this important collaboration will increase awareness and reporting of human trafficking and provide an avenue that links victims to vital services.”
The posters provide the toll-free hotline and website link for the National Human Trafficking Hotline. They urge people to get help, report a tip or find services. They also provide details regarding the forms of human trafficking.
“From both anecdotal and statistical evidence, reports of human trafficking in West Virginia are increasing significantly,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew R. Cogar, a prosecutor in the federal Northern District of West Virginia. “Proactive multi-agency engagement is critical to identify and combat trafficking, so my office applauds the Fusion Center and collaborating state agencies for their efforts to raise awareness of trafficking and help rescue victims.”
In addition to its federal partners, the Fusion Center is collaborating with the W.Va. Department of Transportation and the field liaisons at the W.Va. Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. They will help place and track the posters, flagging locations for new or additional posters as warranted. The hope is to expand where posters can be seen to include business and other locations.
The initiative launched this month, as January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and will continue throughout 2020.
The W.Va. Intelligence Fusion Center allows local, state and federal law enforcement and public safety agencies to share resources, expertise and information. With private entities also participating, the resulting collaboration makes the most of their respective contributions to prevent, detect, investigate and respond to all hazards – including but not limited to terrorist and criminal activity.