CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and 52 other state and territorial attorneys general are taking a stand against human trafficking, especially of children, in the United States.
“Human trafficking is a significant and fast-growing problem in the United States, and an issue that attorneys general, regardless of party, cannot turn a blind eye to,” Morrisey said in statement. “Children and teens are the most often victimized by this crime, and we must work together to stop this.”
In a letter sent to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the attorneys general said human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating about $150 billion each year. Numerous cases nationally show instances of children as young as 12 being used in prostitution rings, and the FBI estimates that nearly 300,000 American youths are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
“Unfortunately, the Internet has become the primary marketplace for those hoping to engage in illicit activities with children, teens and young adults who may be forced to participate against their will,” Morrisey said. “The Internet can provide a mask of anonymity to those who try to make money off of human trafficking.”
Morrisey said organized crime groups and street gangs also may use the Internet to sell their victims under “adult services sections” on websites such as Backpage.com. Those sites have created virtual brothels where children are bought and sold using euphemistic labels such as “escorts.”
Preventing kids from being trafficked on the Internet has been a long-term interest of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). NAAG has taken several actions regarding Backpage.com and similar websites, including requesting that these exploitive websites shut down their “adult services” sections which fuel the online trafficking of youth.
The states and territories that signed today’s letter are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.