Richmond police take different approach for Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Community members, business owners, and police are walking with a purpose along 23rd and 24th streets in Richmond--an area police say is known for prostitution.  

"I think when I first started that was kind of the mentality. Arrest all the girls or workers out there and that will solve the problem. We quickly realized that isn't the way to do things," said Richmond Police Sgt. Kris Tong.   

That's why police decided to take a different approach.  One which isn't about arrests or citations. But about outreach with victim advocates.  

"The majority of workers out there are women and so typically they're forced to be out there. Don't want to be out there," said Tong.  

The group is out pounding the pavement. Trying to contact and convince the women, they have options. That don't include using their body to make a living. 

"The services we provide are actually counseling services and resources they might need. Anything like work or anything to get them out of that lifestyle," said victim advocate Wendy Alvarez with Community Violence Solutions. 

On this night, all the women we came in contact with declined help.  Officers said they can only do so much and said it's important to have victim advocates come along to relate to the women in ways officers might not be able to.

"When they talk to an officer, they're a little bit guarded. They think maybe the officer is trying to trick them," Tong said.   

"It makes it more comfortable because I'm not the one wearing the uniform. I'm not the one asking all the investigation questions. Actually, I'm trying to comfort them," said Alvarez.  

Officers are extremely grateful to the public and businesses owners who not only report these crimes, but are also actively working to make a difference.