CHARLESTON – Human trafficking has become a major problem, but Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is taking steps to combat it in West Virginia.
He recently announced a partnership with the state's Department of Health and Human Resources aimed at training law enforcement to better identify and reduce human trafficking. Free training has been offered in Marion, Kanawha, Cabell and Fayette counties.
According to a press release from Morrisey’s office, human trafficking is defined as commercial sex or labor that is induced by force, fraud or coercion.
"It is considered the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world today, second only to drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services," the release states. "West Virginia’s increased rate of drug addiction, poverty and its large number of children in foster care make the state especially susceptible to human trafficking."
Morrisey told The West Virginia Record that the training is a high priority, noting “My office has worked with law enforcement officials around the state to better educate them about human trafficking. This includes training sessions in Berkeley, Logan, Mercer and Raleigh counties among others.”
Morrisey also noted that anyone can be trafficked, and substance abusers are particularly vulnerable.
“(Trafficking) is a crime that doesn’t discriminate as men, women and children of all ages are at risk of being trafficked. The opioid epidemic also increases the likelihood human trafficking-related crimes since drug users will often go to any extent to feed their addiction,” he said.
The end goal is to reduce trafficking by making law enforcement better able to detect it.
“As the human trafficking industry continues to threaten West Virginians, we hope to equip law enforcement communities and public service workers with the knowledge it takes to identify, assist and properly report the issue. We hope our efforts will not only save lives, but also make West Virginia a safer place for everyone to call home,” Morrisey said.