Letter from Detective Woolf to the Northern Virginia Community
Human trafficking continues to plague the Northern Virginia region, but I am pleased to report that the efforts of the community-at-large is making remarkable strides at forming and fostering partnerships that are raising awareness and stopping instances of trafficking. As the new school year begins I wanted to draw particular attention to the need to communicate the realities of teen sex trafficking to our kids. I would like to highlight two major efforts in our area who are doing just that.
The first is the commendable efforts of the Fairfax County Public School system which, under the direction of Dr. Liz Payne, has worked tirelessly towards the development of an anti-trafficking curriculum to be implemented county-wide. Staring this year, students in grades six through twelve will receive human trafficking awareness in the classroom. This curriculum is unique in both the scope of children that it will reach, but also in its comprehensiveness. This curriculum is the first of its kind to be implemented anywhere in the United States. This will not only serve to raise awareness among the students, but give them practical steps to prevent themselves from being victimized, and empower them to help those around them that may be on the path of getting themselves trapped in this horrible lifestyle.
The second effort I wanted to highlight is the JustAsk campaign. A working group comprised of a variety of governmental and community (including faith-based) groups, has formulated the most comprehensive teen sex trafficking awareness campaign in the country. The group, led by Kristin Fitzmorris of Hiddenbrook Communications, has created a website which can be found by clicking here. This website, unique in it's approach, provides invaluable information to teens, parents, and the community on what teen sex trafficking looks like in our community, information on combating and preventing trafficking, a calendar of events, and various other resources. Arguably, everyone in Northern Virginia should review the website.
The effectiveness and value for the website has already proven itself. on September 18th, 2014, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia announced the guilty plea of Tayron Weeks, a Northern Virginia resident who had targeted underage girls for the purposes of sexual exploitation and trafficking. That investigation was brought to the attention of law enforcement as a direct result of the efforts of the JustAsk campaign where the intended victim learned that she was being groomed by Mr. Weeks for sex trafficking after attending a community event co-sponsored by the JustAsk campaign and reviewing the website. She said that she never knew that was what was going on until she was made aware, and then she knew she was a victim and had to come forward. It is unknown how many children were saved from being future victims because of the courageous efforts of this teen and the awareness raised by the efforts of the JustAsk campaign. As we start this new school year my hope is that the community becomes reinvigorated in our fight against human trafficking and that we all remain ever-vigilant.
Detective Bill Woolf
Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force