UPDATE: Just Ask Prevention Project; One Year Later

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Detective Bill Woolf, FCPD Human Trafficking Unit, answers questions from the media.

 

Fair Oaks District – The Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force met today and shared results of their “Just Ask” Prevention Project, one year after launching an innovative outreach and enforcement program. The Task Force was awarded a million dollars towards enforcement and community education of human trafficking crimes and how to recognize and prevent them.

In the past year, the Just Ask Prevention Project has developed an interactive website that has engaged thousands of teens, parents, teachers and concerned community members. In addition to providing national hotline numbers for emergencies and safety tips, it is linked to Facebook, Twitter, and is accessible in Spanish and multiple media platforms. Posters highlighting the campaign messages have been placed on buses, in shopping malls, community centers and schools; all reinforcing messages about awareness and traffickers’ tactics. A high school curriculum within Fairfax County Public Schools was developed and is addressing all 6th through 12th graders; helping further raise the issue among youth. Trainings on the Just Ask project were held addressing faith-based and grassroots partners, counselors, shelter and residential program providers, teens, parents and community members. Over 15,000 wrist bands were distributed to school-age teens through high schools and civic groups such as Girl Scouts of America.

On the enforcement aspect, police have received 141 leads from community members; many of who learned about the issue and thought to “just ask” about a situation that didn’t seem “right.” Out of these investigations, 253 victims have been identified; 13 percent of those were juveniles. Additionally, 69 suspects were identified through law enforcement investigations. Suspects are predominately male and typically are in their 20’s. Many of these investigations are still underway and arrests are pending.

Teen from West Springfield High School discusses the human trafficking awareness and prevention efforts at her high school.

Teen from West Springfield High School discusses the human trafficking awareness and prevention efforts at her high school.

Community partners and media attended the Human Trafficking Task Force meeting today at the Fair Oaks Police District.
Community partners and media attended the Human Trafficking Task Force meeting today at the Fair Oaks Police District.

A new public service announcement developed and created by local teens was screened at today’s Task Force meeting. West Springfield student Elaine Stewart, the actress in the film clip, attended today’s task force meeting to learn firsthand more about human trafficking issues. The video stresses that: Sex trafficking is a reality in our region because it’s seen as less risky than other crimes and traffickers may look “normal” and victims may look like the girl next door. It’s important for concerned adults to learn what’s going on in the life of teens and for teens ,who think they might be in trouble, to know they can “Just Ask” for help.

Outreach worker, Jodi O'Hern, FCPS Coordinator for Health, Family Life and Physical Education, and Kristin Fitzmorris, of the Just Ask Prevention Effort

Outreach worker, Jodi O’Hern, FCPS Coordinator for Health, Family Life and Physical Education, and Kristin Fitzmorris, of the Just Ask Prevention Effort

Northern Virginia Task Force Receives $1 Million Grant to Combat Human Trafficking (October 11, 2013)

FAIRFAX, Va. – The Fairfax County Police Department, Polaris Project, United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Virginia Attorney General’s Office, along with local law enforcement agencies across northern Virginia, announced the receipt of a $1,000,000 grant from the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (“OJP”) and Office for Victims of Crime (“OVC”) today.

Under the terms of the grant, a total of $500,000 has been awarded to the Fairfax County Police Department over two years to fund, among other things, a new Human Trafficking Unit. A full-time detective and a full-time crime analyst are now dedicated to conducting human trafficking investigations in Fairfax County. They will also coordinate the overall investigative efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement members of the Human Trafficking Task Force in Northern Virginia. An additional $500,000 over two years was awarded to the Polaris Project to provide services to victims of human trafficking issues in collaboration with the task force.

The title of the grant is the FY 2013 Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking. The Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force was one of seven jurisdictions to receive funding. The six other jurisdictions that will receive grant awards under this program are Arlington, Texas; Riverside County, California; St. Louis, Missouri; Brooklyn, New York; Buffalo, New York; and Seattle, Washington.

Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies – along with nongovernmental organizations – dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes.

From FY 2011 to the present, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia has successfully prosecuted 24 federal cases against 57 defendants engaged in human trafficking and closely related conduct throughout northern Virginia. These convictions resulted in sentences ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. These cases involved at least 38 juvenile victims of sex trafficking, over 350 adult victims of prostitution and sexual exploitation, and 2 adult victims of forced labor.

With the infusion of these additional funds, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force will continue to take an aggressive and innovative approach to investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases. In addition, the grant provides a comprehensive array of restorative services designed to meet specific victims’ individual needs.

Learn more about human trafficking and federal initiatives and where and how to find help for victims,