CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office recently held an educational course on human trafficking in Wheeling as part of the office's efforts to “take the lead in combating this emerging crime."
The Jan. 31 event was free and open to the public. The AG's office said Morrisey is taking action to educate West Virginia residents and others about human trafficking in light of “recent changes in West Virginia law.”
“Human trafficking is a crime that does not discriminate,” Morrisey said in the release. “Men, women and children of all ages can be victims. Equipping communities with the necessary skills to identify victims is a crucial step in helping West Virginia reach her full potential.”
Darrell W. Cummings, pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling, where the community education program was held, said in the release that the event’s participants were “hoping to hear information on how to recognize human trafficking in our community and stop it from happening in our state.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
The attorney general office’s release said a rise in human trafficking is of particular concern given the demographics and economic and realities for many residents of the Mountain State.
“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,” the release said. “The attorney general believes educational training provided by his office will equip citizens with the necessary resources to better identify suspicious activity and properly report potential cases.”
As part of his efforts, the attorney general’s office said Morrisey “drafted best practices aimed at raising awareness about human trafficking among law enforcement officers, public service personnel and community members around the state.”
“The first-of-its-kind initiative in West Virginia has garnered broad support from law enforcement agencies across the state including the Ceredo Police Department, Charleston Police Department, Kenova Police Department, White Hall Police Department, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office and Cabell County Prosecuting Attorney Sean “Corky” Hammers among others,” the release said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines human trafficking as “commercial sex or labor that is induced by force, fraud or coercion,” the release said. The agency said the crime is recognized as the “second largest criminal industry in the world today, second only to drug trafficking.”
According to an earlier statement released on Nov. 10 by Morrisey’s office, the attorney general teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Resources in his fight to combat human trafficking in West Virginia.
Through this collaboration, the attorney general offered free “certified training” to Department of Health and Human Resources officials in Cabell, Fayette, Kanawha and Marion counties to “provide public service workers with the necessary resources to better identify suspicious activity and tackle this growing criminal industry.”
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and cannot be tolerated,” Morrisey said in the Nov. 10 release. “We must tackle this horrific and heartbreaking situation head on.”