RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond police received 50 backpacks filled with “comfort items” on Friday from a non-profit aimed to help victims of human trafficking. The donation comes as authorities in Richmond say they deal with a few trafficking cases each week.
It may be back to school time, but the backpacks dropped off at the Richmond Police Department are not going to kids heading back to class. They are going to another group of young people in the Richmond area.
Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit whose members call themselves “abolitionists,” provided the backpacks to Richmond police. The backpacks contain items for rescued victims, including personal hygiene products, non-perishable foods and coloring books.
“Little games, coloring books, hygiene items like toothpaste and toothbrushes,” Kierstin Stockton, a member of Operation Underground Railroad, explained.
Richmond police officers will give the packs to victims of human trafficking. There are victims of all ages with no possessions to call their own.
“Twelve, 13, 14,” Special Investigations Division Captain Emmett Williams said. “Do we see that in the Richmond area? Yes, we’ve seen it. It’s mostly in the massage parlor industry.”
Officers are now being taught signs to look out for. Williams spoke with 8News about what they are being told to pay attention to.
“Not allowed to talk to police, is not allowed to make eye contact,” he said. “You’ve got a feeling that something’s wrong, there probably is.”
Richmond volunteers, like Stockton, want to shine some light no matter how big or small.
“The three E’s are emancipate, empower, and enlighten,” Stockton told 8News. “Someone that cares for them and that they’re not alone and even though they may not know the person who’s provided these items that there are people out there that care.”
RPD says it’s also part of a coalition of law enforcement throughout the entire region and the FBI to combat human labor and sex trafficking.