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Wheeling City Council Aims To Raise Awareness of Stalking, Human Trafficking

WHEELING — City leaders are taking a united stand to support those in the community who are victimized and exploited, adopting legislation proclaiming January as both Stalking Awareness Month and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Members of Wheeling City Council recently adopted the two proclamations on a virtual meeting with several representatives from area support groups in attendance during the meeting, including officials from the Upper Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Help Center, the Harmony House and both the YWCA Wheeling and its Survivors of Trafficking Empowerment Program.

According to one proclamation, 7.5 million people are stalked in a one-year period in the United States, and the majority of victims are stalked by someone they know. Many Stalking victims lose time from work and experience serious psychological distress and lost productivity at a much higher rate than the general population, the action stated.

“Communities can better combat stalking by adopting multidisciplinary responses by teams of local agencies and organizations, and by providing more and better victim services,” Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott said. “We applaud the efforts of the many victim service providers, police officers, prosecutors, national and community organizations and private sector supporters for their efforts in promoting awareness about stalking.”

Today, stalkers take advantage of technology such as cell phones, GPS or global positioning systems, cameras and spyware to monitor and track their victims, officials said, noting that criminal justice systems need to keep pace by continued training, assertive investigation and prosecution of these crimes. Laws and public policies must also continuously adapt to remain one step ahead of tactics used by stalkers.

Human trafficking has become another evolving crime that affects communities big and small, and it is one that involves victims and survivors from every background, race, gender, sexual orientation and economic status, officials said. Although anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, women and girls are the primary victims.

“The city of Wheeling is striving to become a place where human trafficking does not exist, where people have opportunities available to them, and where all people are treated as fully human and worthy of a supportive community and freedom,” Elliott said.

Local and state law enforcement agencies, along with private and non-governmental organizations and social service providers, are working together to provide help for exploited individuals in the community and to serve as a catalyst for training, education and prevention of human trafficking and exploitation.

“Human trafficking goes against basic human rights, and there is a vital need to eradicate this crime,” said Elliott, who thanked local social service organization representatives for the important work they do in the community. “Let us know how we at the city can help you going forth. We can’t thank you enough for what you do.”

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