Hank Silverberg, wtop.com
RICHMOND, Va. - It is an underside of life that most people will never see, yet your child may be at risk. Human trafficking, or slave labor that often involves the sex trade, is now in the spotlight in the Virginia General Assembly.
There's no estimate how many people, both adults and children, become victims each year.
"We've had in Northern Virginia, the proliferation of trafficking victims via MS-13, one of the most notorious gangs in the Commonwealth and in the country," says State Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Arlington.
He is one of the sponsors of a series of bills that would upgrade the penalties for forcing someone into the sex trade and educate police and the public on how to spot it.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said the risk to those enslaving someone needs to be increased, particularly when street gangs are involved.
"They have done the cost benefit analysis and found that sex trafficking of minors is at lower risk for higher money for them than pushing drugs," said Cuccinelli, noting that the crime is only a misdemeanor.
One of the bills would raise the crime to a felony, while another would require that posters be put up at sex oriented businesses, such as strip clubs advertising the Human Trafficking Hotline.
The hotline for reporting suspected human trafficking is 1-888-373-7888.
A third bill would provide for training for the Department of Social Services and school systems. The training would teach how to spot human trafficking and potential victims.
The package of bills has broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the General Assembly.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)