Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday signed three bills intended to crack down on human trafficking in Virginia — a state ranked near the top in the country for trafficking reports over the last three years.
"Unfortunately, the subjugation of human beings who are forced against their will into labor or, worse, into the sex trade, is not something relegated to the history books or to underdeveloped Third World counties," McDonnell said. "What we're talking about here is a vile, despicable offense."
Virginia ranked among the top 10 states for human trafficking report calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center's call center between December 2007 and December 2010.
Last year, a pimp who sold a 16-year-old girl for sex from Woodbridge hotel rooms was arrested on a variety of sex trafficking charges, but none of them was under a federal human trafficking law passed in 2000. Instead, the charges to which Marc Brickhouse pleaded guilty stemmed from a 100-year-old law forbidding the movement of children across state lines for sex.
But lawmakers said legislation signed Tuesday will go a long way to discourage human trafficking.
One bill, sponsored by Dels. Tim Hugo, R-Fairfax, and Vivian Watts, D-Fairfax, makes the abduction of any person for prostitution or of a minor for manufacturing child pornography a Class 2 felony — punishable by 20 years to life in prison.
"We are making a clear statement that those who participate in human trafficking are not welcome in Virginia," said Hugo, noting that Centreville, which he represents, is a hot spot for such activity
Another bill, carried by Sen. Stephen Newman, R-Lynchburg, requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services, in conjunction with the Attorney General's Office, to advise law enforcement agencies about prosecuting trafficking offenses through existing state law.
"Virginia has very tough laws, and we need to make sure that anyone engaged in trafficking sees that we do," Watts said.
A third, sponsored by Del. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, requires the Department of Social Services to craft a service plan for victims of human trafficking.
"Trafficking victims are often beaten, raped, threatened, manipulated and locked up," Ebbin said. "It's important that when victims are rescued, we are able to get them the aid they need to start the recovery process."