January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Know what to look for, and call law enforcement if you suspect human trafficking


January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and one of the best ways to prevent human trafficking is for residents to know what it is and what to look for. Recognizing the signs and alerting law enforcement could literally save a life.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking: “Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. … Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation.”

It happens right here in the United States, in every state, in communities large and small, and victims can be any age, gender, race, or nationality. It could be happening right here in our community.

Traffickers look for people who are vulnerable and susceptible to their influence, perhaps facing financial hardships, from a broken home or without a stable home life.

The common idea is that human traffickers violently snatch up their victims and take them somewhere else where they may be forced into prostitution. That is one form of human trafficking.

But human trafficking can also take different forms. Human trafficking may begin in ways that are not obvious.

Traffickers may engage a victim in a romantic relationship and then gradually manipulate the victim, using violence as a means of control when necessary. Fear of their traffickers frequently stops victims from getting help. In some cases, the victim is manipulated to fear law enforcement. Victims are traumatized and often feel helpless to help themselves. even in public situations where help is readily available.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) has a bureau dedicated to fighting human trafficking in Wisconsin through enforcement, education, and training, the DOJ said in a recent press release.

“The Human Trafficking Bureau within DCI promotes public safety through proactive enforcement, community outreach, specialized training, and operational assistance to law enforcement to identify, target, and prosecute traffickers statewide.

The bureau also works with all levels of law enforcement to promote victim centered approaches for investigations and conducts demand suppression operations to target customers and deter sex buyers who create the demand that fuels the crime of human trafficking,” the release said.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul offers the following signs to look for that could be indicators of human trafficking, but emphasizes: “If you come across a situation you believe to be human trafficking, do not intervene. Instead, document as much information as you can, and contact law enforcement immediately.”

Possible indicators of sex trafficking and recruitment:
• Any minor engaged in sex acts for anything of value
• Individual of any age or gender appears to be watching and approaching youth, systematically trying to befriend strangers, promoting “modeling agencies,” traveling crew employment, talent search websites, or other employment
• Crimes (theft, drug crimes) appear to be committed under the watch and for the benefit of someone else
• Tattoos that indicate branding of a victim by a trafficker
• Youth in possession of motel keys/cards, lots of cash, prepaid credit cards
• Individuals being constantly monitored, having no control over money or ID, with few or no personal items
• Minors under the influence of drugs/alcohol in the company of adults or much older youth
• Signs of physical abuse, fear, or malnourishment
• Lack of knowledge of his or her whereabouts or destination, numerous inconsistencies in his or story

Possible indicators of labor trafficking:
• Individuals selling items or begging
• Signs of physical abuse, force, restraint, sleep deprivation, or untreated injuries or illness
• Groups of traveling sales or work crews sleeping in vehicles in parking lot
• Lack of knowledge of whereabouts or destination, numerous inconsistencies in their story
• Individuals being constantly monitored by someone, not allowed to speak for themselves, seeming fearful or submissive to a person who is speaking for them
• Individuals without their own transportation, who do not seem to be allowed to come and go on their own
• Individuals who do not carry their own identification or money, or have few or no personal possessions
• Mention of work conditions or wages being different than what was advertised or promised

The DOJ urges, if you or someone you know needs immediate help, call 911.

Additional resources:
• The National Human Trafficking Hotline also assists victims and accepts tips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1.888.373.7888 or by texting 233733. www.humantraffickinghotline.org
• National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTip Reporting https://report.cybertip.org/
1-800-THE-LOST (1.800.843.5678)
• For more information about human trafficking, victim services, statutes, and industry specific materials, visit www.BeFreeWisconsin.com.
• Visit the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families’ “WI, We Need to Talk” website for resources to promote dialogue between adults, parents and children about youth sex trafficking at https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/wisconsintalks
• Information about trucking, human trafficking, and truck stops:  lanierlawfirm.com/trucking-and-human-trafficking/

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