While not all bills to crack down on human trafficking in Virginia have survived the halfway point in the General Assembly, lawmakers believe they've made progress in battling what's now considered one of the fastest—if not the fastest—growing financial crime worldwide.
They have agreed that this is not a partisan issue. Lawmakers were able to work across both chambers and party lines to develop new guidelines to assist victims and law enforcement officials.
Experts say human trafficking is so lucrative because it's easier to cover up and the penalties are less punitive than drug trafficking. It's also harder to prove, and the so-called “commodity” sometimes consists of victims who have, at some point, consented to it. Delegate Rob Bell says much of that will change under the bills that are advancing, which include creating new felonies for trafficking in persons for forced labor or sexual servitude.
Bell says these are still preliminary steps to address an ongoing challenge. He adds that as law enforcement and subsequently, lawmakers, learn more about these crimes, additional legislation will be crafted to prevent traffickers from circumventing the law.