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Foes in AG race share views

Republican attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain stopped in Fredericksburg Friday to pitch his plan to combat human trafficking.

Human trafficking, in which people are forced or coerced into services like prostitution or forced labor, is a growing problem in the U.S.

Obenshain said as many as 100,000 children are victims of sex trafficking in the U.S.

Both Obenshain and his opponent, Democrat Mark Herring, have made proposals to combat human trafficking part of their campaign platforms.

Some of those proposals are similar. Both men want victims to be able to pursue civil action against their traffickers, and to get restitution. Both propose a law allowing for asset forfeiture for those convicted of human trafficking.

Both want to create a task force on human trafficking, made up of people from various law enforcement and other agencies, to track and report on human trafficking issues in Virginia and Virginia’s responses to the problem.

Other proposals are slightly different. Obenshain wants to require that those convicted of “commercial sex” with a minor be put on the sex offender registry, while Herring proposes that those convicted of soliciting a minor into human trafficking be put on the sex offender registry.

Herring suggests legal protections that recognize underage trafficking victims as victims, not criminals, and offer them help.

Obenshain wants human trafficking to be a stand-alone crime in Virginia code. Currently, he said, it’s difficult to prosecute because Virginia’s laws don’t directly address trafficking. Instead, traffickers are prosecuted for abduction or for taking indecent liberties, which is a misdemeanor.

Obenshain was in Fredericksburg to explain his proposals during a luncheon meeting, put together by Paula Kallay and Michele Trampe.

Kallay said the women weren’t representing any particular group but were interested in the issue. She publicized the lunch among various women’s groups.

Two local law enforcement officers, Capt. Jeffrey Pearce of the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s office and Capt. William Bowler of the Stafford County Sheriff’s office, said this area sees human trafficking problems just like the big cities do, in part because it’s along the busy I-95 corridor.

Pearce said Spotsylvania’s detectives have been trained to look for signs of trafficking, and that patrol deputies may soon get similar training.

Obenshain and state Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, both said human trafficking is a highly profitable enterprise for criminals, and more appealing than drug trafficking because of the lesser penalties.

“It is more profitable than drugs,” Obenshain said. “Drugs you sell once. People you sell over and over again.”

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028


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