How the Bedford County sheriff is helping to prevent human trafficking in the Commonwealth

The Commission on Human Trafficking Prevention met for the first time Wednesday at the Capitol

Bedford sheriff Mike Miller is back from his first of many trips to Richmond

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – A local sheriff is going a step further to keep his community and the Commonwealth safe.

The newly formed Commission on Human Trafficking Prevention and Survivor Support met for the first time Wednesday in Richmond.

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Miller is back from his first of many trips to the Capitol.

“That’s what this is about, how I can help protect our citizens and people in the Commonwealth,” he said. “It’s an awesome task to be assigned to. What we do in Bedford County could affect the Commonwealth, which could affect the whole country in a positive way.”

He’s one of 12 people serving on Virginia’s Commission on Human Trafficking Prevention and Survivor Support.

The board was formed via executive order on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s first day in office. It’s made up of survivors, experts, prosecutors and law enforcement.

“Once we come back we can educate not only our law enforcement but our communities,” Miller added. “We can educate our children in schools, we can educate our senior citizens, we can educate anyone who will listen.”

In 2019, there were 179 cases of trafficking and 77 traffickers in Virginia alone. There are three major ways the commission is working against this:

1. Increase enforcement

  • Coordinating with state and local law enforcement, Commonwealth’s Attorneys and U.S. Attorneys to increase prosecution and seek jail time as opposed to just fines for those who solicit prostitution.
  • Increasing targeting of illicit massage businesses by coordinating with local law enforcement, private property owners, regulatory boards and increasing investigation into tax compliance.
  • Collaborating with authorities to ensure social media and technology companies actively fight trafficking on their platforms.
  • Ensuring all law enforcement officers are thoroughly trained in identifying trafficking cases and protocols for working with victims.

2. Empower survivors

  • Partnering with nonprofits and the private sector to increase the provision of resources survivors need for mental and behavioral recovery and wellness.
  • Fostering public-private partnerships to educate, train and empower survivors toward a career path.
  • Fostering public-private partnerships to assist victims in securing temporary and long-term housing options.

3. Enhance education

  • Increasing awareness of the signs of potential trafficking and appropriate ways to intervene, including for teachers and school officials.
  • Requiring schools to provide online safety training and education.
  • Expanding awareness of the National Trafficking Hotline and other resources for victims to report and receive assistance to escape trafficking.

“There’s not but so much law enforcement out there,” Miller said. “With the help of our citizens and all of our communities looking for this, if we can break this cycle, my goodness, wouldn’t that just be an honor to be able to get someone out of this?”

Sheriff Miller said the commission will meet weekly over zoom, and monthly at the Capitol.

Former Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown and Roanoke’s Straight Street Director Keith Farmer are also local members on the commission.

About the Author:

Kortney joined the 10 News team as a Lynchburg Bureau Reporter in May 2021.