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Human trafficking is modern day slavery where traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims to engage in sex acts or labor services against their will. Victims can be any age, gender, nationality, or race, and come from any socioeconomic class.
In a press release from Gov. Jim Justice, since 2007, the state’s human trafficking hotline has resulted in 550 victims identified in 246 West Virginia cases.
“It’s time for all West Virginians,” Justice said. “All our agencies, and all our communities to watch out, report and support law enforcement so we can stop this disgusting behavior in our great state.”
West Virginia’s new ‘You Can” initiative debuted on Wednesday. The program empowers citizens, giving them tools to report suspicious behavior.
The “You Can” initiative and the West Virginia Fusion Center website offer local and national human trafficking resources and a way for victims and members of the community to learn about and report information.
West Virginians can submit a human trafficking tip online at go.wv.gov/TipsHT, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 1-888-373-7888, or texting “Be Free” or 233733. Dial 911 for immediate threats or emergencies.
West Virginia has partnered with My Mobile Witness to implement a “see something, send something” reporting system that can be completed on a smartphone or other mobile device. A printable brochure can be downloaded here.
West Virginia Fusion Center Director Jack Luikart said police investigators need help – and the public needs to raise its awareness of the crime.
“Human trafficking is one of the most underreported, under investigated and under prosecuted crimes all over the United States,” Luikart said. “There is a lack of community awareness of these activities and reporting mechanisms, which is why the “You Can” initiative is so vital.”
All West Virginians are encouraged to participate in this initiative by downloading the free See it, Send it application from the App Store or Google Play. The user may submit tips for “Suspicious Activity/Human Trafficking” or “School Threat or Safety Issues,” and they may also request help for “Suicide or Addiction.”
Organizations interested in displaying “You Can” materials or requesting a free training should contact email@example.com.