The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services has announced a new platform to help officials understand and mitigate trends in human trafficking.

The new platform, entitled the Virginia Analysis System for Trafficking (VAST), builds on data analytics tools and data-sharing agreements the commonwealth previously used to track opioid deaths and COVID-19 cases.

“[VAST] is a new way for officials to share data across jurisdictions and identify actionable trends,” a press release noted. “The platform provides insights into who is falling victim to trafficking, who’s perpetrating the crime, where it’s taking place, which external factors contribute to its incidence, and whether it’s increasing or decreasing. With VAST, organizations across Virginia are better equipped to aid victims, prosecute criminals, and prevent trafficking.”

With the platform, law enforcement can quickly access data on incidents, victims, offenders, and arrests. They can view color-coded maps of these details by county across the state. They can also see breakdowns of incidents and arrests for trafficking that involves sex versus forced labor.

VAST also includes a way for officials to create data visualizations that distinguish between sex workers who’ve chosen their line of work and incidents of human trafficking – a distinction that can affect victims and the organizations that serve them.

Additionally, VAST is built on an innovative data-sharing framework that allows the secure exchange of previously siloed information across organizations. The collected and correlated data allows agencies to understand trends in offenses, contextualize risk factors, and better target services to victims.

“This data can empower stakeholders to understand previously hidden correlations. For instance, they can determine that certain types of events can result in trafficking spikes, that an increase in drug trafficking might lead to an upward trend in human trafficking or that victims in a certain age range are more likely to be trafficked by a family member. These insights enable agencies to target interventions and better understand whether programs are having an impact,” the announcement noted.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.