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COLUMN:Community View - Human trafficking is problem in NOVA

- It is a crime that often happens in the shadows of our community. Human trafficking has taken a foothold in Northern Virginia, and all parents and teachers need to be aware of this heinous crime. Victims have been lured by phrases such as “you’re pretty” and “you can make some money” on social media. What is so grotesque about this crime is the perpetrators target the young and vulnerable.

Pitching in

- On Saturday, three local girls shoveled walks and driveways for donations to the Haymarket Regional Food Pantry. Allison Curran of Osbourn Park High, Sydney King of Battlefield High and Caitlyn Bannan of Bull Run Middle worked up a storm to help neighbors in need.

Haymarket to take another look at VRE

- The westward extension of the Virginia Railway Express from Broad Run to Haymarket may receive a new breath of life from the Haymarket Town Council, although the town planning commission chairman declared the proposal is "dead" and can't go anywhere.

Bobcats take third at track regionals

- Athletes from Battlefield, Osbourn, Osbourn Park, Patriot and Stonewall Jackson competed in the Group 6A North Region indoor track and field championship on Feb. 19 at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Center in Landover, Md.

Manassas snow day

- Gail Peterson (Bristow) enjoys the solitude and peacefulness of an unoccupied ice-rink during Saturday's snowstorm. Peterson said, "I never get to do this, normally I am racing around, taking my kids to all their different things; today everything is canceled because of the snow."

Headline: Patriot’s Cardinale, Battlefield’s Curtis lock up state titles

- A pair of Prince William wrestlers claimed state championship glory Feb. 20 at the Group 6A wrestling meet at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax. Both local champs have plenty of time to do it again too.

BHS gymnasts take fourth at states

- The winter season came to a close for the Battlefield gymnastics team this past Friday in Nokesville with the Bobcats serving as the sole representative from Prince William County in the state finals. Competing in the four-team Group 6A event at Patriot High School on Friday, Battlefield placed fourth overall with 139.175 points, down from 141.025 points at the Group 6A North Region championship a week earlier.

State Trooper recovering from crash in Prince William

- A Virginia State Police trooper is recovering after his vehicle was struck by an out-of-control SUV in Prince William County. The crash occurred around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday along the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 near mile marker 152.

BOCS considers tax rate, programs for ‘16 budget

- When the Prince William Board of County Supervisors met at a special work session on Saturday morning, at no point did the board actually restore or take away anything in particular from the upcoming year's budget. Instead, the day at the McCoart Administration Building served as a preliminary hearing of sorts as the eight elected officials who run the board heard from county staff what tax rate would be required to meet certain funding obligations.

Radio Shack closes three PW stores

- Three Radio Shack stores in Prince William are slated to be shut down in the wave of store closures after the electronics retail chain filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 5. According to “Business Insider,” the company will close 1,784 stores by March 31, while others will survive in an agreement with Sprint to create a "store within a store."

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COLUMN:Community View - Human trafficking is problem in NOVA

It is a crime that often happens in the shadows of our community. Human trafficking has taken a foothold in Northern Virginia, and all parents and teachers need to be aware of this heinous crime.

Victims have been lured by phrases such as “you’re pretty” and “you can make some money” on social media.

What is so grotesque about this crime is the perpetrators target the young and vulnerable.

One of the likely scenarios that can happen in Northern Virginia is that of a young girl, who has responded to an enticing message on Facebook.

She is then courted and groomed by an older man she thought of as her boyfriend – in reality the boyfriend is a pimp.

The “boyfriend” picks her up after school every afternoon; she is dressed in jeans, a sweatshirt and a ponytail to be sent out to solicit sex multiple times in one night.

The young girl finally reaches out for help through a school guidance counselor, a trusted friend or church leader and is pulled out of this dark world by police who are fortunately learning more about this crime every day.

She could have been recruited from an average suburban neighborhood and her parents had no idea what was going on or certainly didn’t imagine such a dark world.

A scenario like this can happen in our backyard.

Northern Virginia has a growing human trafficking problem – a problem we are seeing expand throughout the country.

The Fairfax County Police Department recently established the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force to crack down on this scourge.

In the past 12 months alone, the Task Force has had 156 leads, 109 victim recoveries, 267 victims identified and 73 suspects.

One-hundred and two of the 109 victims recovered are U.S. citizens.

Our local police and community leaders are rising to this challenge to combat this terrible crime in Virginia and we have a great partnership to continue this work.

Four years ago, Virginia was at the bottom of the Polaris Project’s Anti-Human Trafficking State Rankings.

Virginia is now ranked in the top category (Tier 1) in the fight against human trafficking thanks in large part to the efforts of our law enforcement, faith based organizations, teachers, victim service centers and local and state elected officials.

As a state delegate over the past five years, I worked with a bipartisan coalition to pass anti-human trafficking laws including a bill I sponsored to crack down on traffickers connected with gangs.

As a member of Congress, I will now continue to make fighting this issue a priority.

During my first month in office, I signed on as a co-sponsor to eight pieces of human trafficking legislation introduced by both Republicans and Democrats and became a member of the Congressional Human Trafficking caucus.

All eight bills have now passed the House and they offer a mix of legislative solutions to combat human trafficking, from encouraging states to establish safe harbor laws to making sure the U.S. and foreign countries are communicating about human trafficking.

One such bill was H.R. 350, The Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act of 2015 introduced by Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD).

The bill launches a review to look into how federal and state agencies are combating human trafficking, and makes sure all federal efforts and resources are targeted to the right areas, among other improvements.

Another piece of legislation authored by Congressman Sean Maloney (D-NY), H.R. 357, The Human Trafficking Prevention Act establishes new minimum training procedures for foreign-service personnel so they can spot potential victims before they come into the United States.

Our community and nationwide efforts can and will have a real impact on the health and safety of our children and neighbors. We must continue to work together with law enforcement, faith-based organizations, teachers, victim service centers and local business leaders throughout Northern Virginia to raise awareness of and stop this heinous crime.

- Barbara Comstock is the U.S. Representative to Congress from the 10th District.
More Local News

COLUMN:Community View - Human trafficking is problem in NOVA

Pitching in

Haymarket to take another look at VRE

Bobcats take third at track regionals

Manassas snow day

Headline: Patriot’s Cardinale, Battlefield’s Curtis lock up state titles

BHS gymnasts take fourth at states

State Trooper recovering from crash in Prince William

BOCS considers tax rate, programs for ‘16 budget

Radio Shack closes three PW stores

Local group welcomes vets

Congressman visits Flory

Prince William Guide


seal Click here to see Prince William voters' favorite things to do this winter!

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