Law enforcement officials around the state met in Buckhannon Wednesday to learn more about how to recognize and combat human trafficking in the state. It’s the second-largest criminal industry in the country, and the fastest growing, so the state attorney general’s office is trying to tackle it head on.
“We wanted to find something that our office could do as a force multiplier to help combat this problem across the state. We looked at out constitutional abilities, we looked at our constitutional mandates, and we determined that one of the best things we could do is train law enforcement officers like what we’re doing today,” said J. Robert Leslie, senior deputy attorney general, who led the training on Wednesday morning.
Many people think of TV or movies when they think of trafficking, but Leslie says all it really takes is three people, one to sell, one to buy, and a victim. And there’s certainly cases like that here in West Virginia.
“Most common in West Virginia is interfamilial, in other words, one family member selling another family member for whatever eason. Maybe its economic hardship. Maybe it’s economic hardship brought about by drug addiction. But normally what we do see in West Virginia is interfamilial,” Leslie said.
One of the biggest roadblocks to successfully recognizing and prosecuting human trafficking is that people may have a hard time recognizing it, since it can often look like lesser crimes. But even Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory, whose department hosted the event, says he’s seen in the area.
“When you look at the reality of the situation and how much can be affected by it, and what different types of trafficking can be involved, it really makes you think of just how far the scope of the problem is, even in small areas like Upshur County,” said Gregory