Henrico City Hall to Educate Community on How to Prevent Human Trafficking

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. – Several central Virginia nonprofits are teaming up to prevent youth from being trafficked for sex or labor, saying there has been an increase in concerns about young people who fall prey to online predators.

The Henrico Too Smart 2 Start coalition has scheduled a public meeting Thursday with representatives from Attorney General Jason Miyares' office, as well as representatives from Henrico County Public Schools and Henrico Police, to educate families on how to spot the signs of possible human trafficking.

“We think of the movie ‘Taken,’ we think of ‘Sound of Freedom,’ we think of kidnapping and going to another country,” said Terrell Pollard, president of the Henrico Too Smart 2 Start coalition. “Human trafficking is another word for slavery.”


Terrell Pollard

Human trafficking is “defined as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain a certain type of labor or commercial sex act” by the Department of Homeland Security.

Traffickers may lure victims into trafficking situations using violence, manipulation, false promises of well-paying jobs and romantic relationships.

Victims are often vulnerable, lacking safe housing, food stability or a stable source of income.

“When people need food, when they need shelter, they ask them to do horrible things,” Pollard said. “And a lot of times, these are young people, who may not be aware of the services available, other resources, or just don't have a lot of life experience to realize that there is other ways, then they are really attacking vulnerable people.

According to the International Labour Organization, human trafficking is a $150 billion business worldwide.

In Virginia, labor trafficking accounts for approximately 40 percent of trafficking cases.

“The predators lure them with money, drugs, they lure them by saying anything is possible, I can buy you anything,” said Travis Woods of Youth Impact, partnering with Henrico Too Smart 2 Start to the town hall.

Youth Impact's goal is to build relationships with youth in central Virginia, partnering with different nonprofit organizations to provide access to social services and employment opportunities.

“If young people knew they could make their own money and have their own careers and so on, it would eliminate those factors,” Woods said.


Travis Woods

Woods encourages youth and their families to be aware of social media to detect behaviors that could lead to trafficking.

“That's why it's so important that you put alerts on your children's phones, be aware of what's going on and, most importantly, build relationships with your children,” Woods said .

A list of signs to recognize human trafficking can be found here.

Look to CBS 6 News and for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email [email protected] to submit a tip.

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