Michigan Enters Fight Against Human Trafficking

Yesterday I was proud to stand with Attorney General William Schuette as he announced that he intends to engage Michigan in the fight against human trafficking.  I was part of his press conference today announcing his new commission. As the Chair of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, I think police need more training on this important topic-right now there is little or none.

This is a heinous and disgusting crime against men, women and children in this country and in our state.  Essentially it is modern-day slavery and it does happen here.  It is hard to see the victims of this crime who frequently are afraid to approach the police for fear of deportation and prosecution for crimes like prostitution.  Their traffickers convince them that they have no value and that the police will not help them.  It is a hidden crime–it is in the lawn care business or among farm workers, sex trade workers and among people working in the kitchens of restaurants or other service businesses.  It is around us but we don’t recognize it in many cases.

RED FLAGS:  INDICATORS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

  • Restrictions of freedom of movement of the worker
  • Especially long work hours
  • Little or no pay
  • Harsh working conditions
  • Security measures in the work area
  • Worker exhibits fear, anxiety
  • Poor physical health
  • Worker has signs of physical or sexual abuse
  • The worker is not in control of his/her money or identification
  • The worker cannot speak for him/herself
  • The worker has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

Auburn Hills has not prosecuted any cases to date, but our officers have had the limited training that is available to us at current and have some knowledge of this crime.  I am hopeful that more resources will be made available and new laws passed that can help us identify victims and prosecute the perpetrators.

One of the participants of the press conference, Jane White, of the MSU Human Trafficking Task Force, told a story of an 11 year old girl, here in Michigan, who was chained in the backyard of a home. This child was illegally brought from Mexico for the purpose of babysitting younger children.  She was not enrolled in school and was treated like an animal.  A neighbor eventually reported the situation.

Here is some information I took from the Attorney General’s Fact Sheet:

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s statistics on human trafficking, 2,515 incidents of human trafficking were recorded nationwide between January 2008 and June 2010.  Of those incidents, 1,016 involved the sexual exploitation of a child, 1,218 involved the sexual exploitation of adults, and 350 involved labor trafficking.  Each year the Federal Government publishes the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report in order to release progress, allow for suggestions, and polish any current methods.

  • Human trafficking is not a choice. A person cannot consent to become enslaved. Victims want to escape, but cannot.
  • Human trafficking is not smuggling. Smuggling is transportation; trafficking is exploitation.
  • Human trafficking does not require that a victim be moved over state or international borders.
  • Approximately 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the U.S. every year.
  • Human trafficking is a $32 billion global industry.

Children are especially vulnerable:

  • 40 percent of human trafficking cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child.
  • Between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation in the U.S. with an average age of 11 to 14 years old.
  • It is estimated that 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls start on the Internet.

Other states are much further ahead than we are in identifying and prosecuting these cases.  I was glad to be part of such an important event today.

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