Human Trafficking

Virginia Code Mandate

9.1-102(55) gives DCJS the power and duty to:
"In conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, advise law-enforcement agencies and attorneys for the Commonwealth regarding the identification, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking offenses using the common law and existing criminal statutes in the Code of Virginia."

Human Trafficking Services Needs Assessment Survey Report

What Is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a criminal activity in which people profit from the control and exploitation of others. Two forms of human trafficking are sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Human trafficking can occur anywhere, within and across U.S. borders, victimizing both U.S. citizens and non-citizens, both children and adults, and across all gender identities.

The federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act defines human trafficking, in part, as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of commercial sex acts or labor services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. "Force" includes physical restraint, bodily harm, or confinement. "Fraud" includes deceitful employment offers or work conditions, false promises, or withholding wages. "Coercion" refers to threats of serious harm, bodily harm against any person, abuse of legal process, withholding legal documents, and creating a climate of fear.
Human trafficking is a unique crime, and one that is often hard to identify, investigate, and prosecute. Human trafficking activities often occur in conjunction with other crimes, which may mask the trafficking components of the activities. Victims of human trafficking may be unwilling or afraid to cooperate with first responders, law enforcement, and victim advocates. Language and cultural barriers can hinder even voluntary communication with trafficking victims.
It is important to distinguish human smuggling and human trafficking as the two are often confused. A smuggled person is a voluntary participant, whereas a trafficked person is not. A smuggled person must cross an international border, while a trafficked person can be victimized in their home country. A trafficked person does not have to be moved or transported, only forced into a state of servitude.

Human Trafficking Facts and Recognizing the Signs

Many victims of human trafficking are U.S. citizens and are trafficked within our communities.

Who are the victims of human trafficking?

  • Foreign nationals
  • Runaway or homeless youth
  • LGBTQIA youth 
  • Victims of abuse or domestic violence
  • Those living in poverty or debt
  • Oppressed and marginalized groups
  • Those desperate for education, jobs, and better opportunities
  • Displaced people (as a result of natural disasters or civil unrest)

Victims are often targeted based on their perceived vulnerability, and they are recruited using various methods. Traffickers might promise a legitimate job to the victim, promise love and marriage, or be a trusted family member or friend. Other methods include debt bondage, abduction/kidnapping, blackmail/extortion, and smuggling. 

Who are the traffickers?

  • Single or multiple traffickers (multiple traffickers often exist in networks)
  • Organized crime and gangs
  • So-called "pimp" traffickers
  • Family members, which can be parents, intimate partners, or others

Trafficking networks have various roles for each trafficker, including recruiters, transporters, forgers, groomers, security, handlers, and enforcers.

For more specific information, visit:

The Polaris Project also lists common signs indicating a human trafficking victim and has statistics on human trafficking:

Information Sources/Disclaimers

These web pages were designed to help law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service providers, and others in recognizing and responding to human trafficking in Virginia. The informational resources contained in these pages draw heavily from existing resources developed by international organizations, federal agencies, other states, and various non-governmental organizations.
Throughout these pages, DCJS provides links to various websites and documents which may be useful to those involved in serving victims and identifying, investigating, and prosecuting human trafficking. Users are advised that these documents and websites are identified for informational purposes. The information and opinions presented within each are the responsibility of the authors and do not represent official positions or policies of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

DCJS Contact

For questions, contact: Angella Alvernaz, State Trafficking Response Coordinator, 804-517-8695‚Äč