McDonnell praises anti-trafficking laws
Virginia improves in Polaris rankings
On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell recognized improvements the state has made against human trafficking in rankings released last month by the anti-human trafficking group Polaris.
Polaris ranks every state and the District of Columbia on the stringency of their laws combating sex trafficking and supporting trafficking survivors. In the past three years, Virginia has moved from Polaris’ fourth and bottom tier to the organization’s top tier.
G. Stewart Petoe, the director of legal affairs at the Virginia State Crime Commission, however, said the Crime Commission thought Virginia’s previous laws on human trafficking were sufficient. The commission is a state criminal justice research agency that seeks to “ascertain the causes of crime and recommend way to reduce and prevent it,” according to its website. The commission conducted a review of state human trafficking laws in 2010 and is currently reviewing newly proposed trafficking laws.
In his press release, McDonnell praised the nine laws related to human trafficking that he has signed since 2011, including a measure signed this year that enhances the penalty for encouraging a minor to engage in prostitution.
“Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world,” McDonnell said in the press release. “I’m pleased with the progress that Virginia has made by enacting tougher legislation.”
The General Assembly referred five bills related to human trafficking and sexual offenses to the Crime Commission for review earlier this year. Three of the bills allow victims of forced prostitution to petition to have their criminal and police records wiped clean.
The other two proposals allow prior sex offense convictions to be presented as evidence before a jury in future trials. Petoe said these proposals will help law enforcement prosecute repeat offenders. “It will be a tool for prosecutors to use to help bolster their case and get a conviction,” he said.
Though the commission has previously evaluated sex trafficking legislation, Petoe said they will consider the issues anew when reviewing the latest proposals.
“We always try to hit a topic with a fresh mind when it comes back up,” Petoe said. “The issues are interesting. I don’t know if there are any stark, correct answers one way or the other.”