WHEELERweek – Human Trafficking

As published by The Wheeler Report – 09/28/2017…

“On Wednesday, September 13, Attorney General Brad Schimel announced the creation of a new Human Trafficking Bureau at the Department of Justice. In his release, Schimel said, “Human trafficking is an insidious crime that affects victims in small and large communities, rural and urban. The DOJ Human Trafficking Bureau will be a resource to communities all across the state in the fight to stop human trafficking and to protect the victims who have been coerced and extorted into sex and labor work.”  The Human Trafficking Bureau will be staffed by one special agent in charge and six special agents from the DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and will promote public safety through proactive enforcement.

In an interview with The Wheeler Report, Schimel said human trafficking is, “modern day slavery. You can be talking about labor trafficking or sex trafficking, we’re seeing both in Wisconsin. They are different than each other, but they have the same basic core, that through force, fraud or coercion someone is being put into some kind of servitude.”  Schimel said DOJ has not spent as much time focused on the labor trafficking, but admitted it is “on the horizon” for the state to address. Schimel explained that most of DOJ’s efforts have been on sex trafficking. Schimel said. “We know that human trafficking exists in almost every county in the state.  We surveyed local and county law enforcement statewide and virtually all counties reported back that they have had experiences with it in their communities.” Schimel admitted that human trafficking is hard to track, calling it “one of the most underground crimes we deal with.” Schimel described that even in drug rings DOJ is able to start getting information and going further into the drug rings and making progress.  Schimel said in human trafficking the victims are “brainwashed” and they live in so much fear they won’t speak out.  Schimel described the victims as living with evil, but said the evil they know is sometimes less scary than the unknown.  Schimel said that fear makes it more difficult for law enforcement to get victims to talk. Schimel said national measures have given results showing Wisconsin is disproportionately high for both people dealing in human trafficking and victims of trafficking. Schimel explained there are large numbers of both traffickers who are either in Wisconsin or have ties to Wisconsin, and victims who are from Wisconsin. Schimel went on to explain that a lot of people have the notion that victims of human trafficking made bad choices in their lives, or that this is somehow regular prostitution. Schimel emphasized that this is not regular prostitution, and these people didn’t choose this for their lives.

When asked what people should be looking for, Schimel said human trafficking is “hiding in plain sight.” Schimel explained that DOJ has been working with over-the-road truck drivers because truck stops are a prime target.  Schimel highlighted the recent efforts by the Wisconsin Lodging Association to create a webinar to train lodging facilities in Wisconsin on what to look for. Schimel emphasized that in order to stop human trafficking, DOJ and law enforcement needed to focus on demand.  Schimel was perfectly clear when he said, “We’re going after them.” Meaning those who demand sex trafficking services. Schimel highlighted that traffickers are efficient at cycling victims though strip clubs, gentlemen’s clubs, dance clubs etc, saying that traffickers move the girls a lot in and out of different jurisdictions.  Schimel also highlighted the increased access through internet connections using social media, Craigslist, and the dark web.

Schimel finished by saying DOJ and the new Human Trafficking Bureau will be working in a coordinated effort with local and county law enforcement to address human trafficking in Wisconsin. Schimel highlighted the interaction between human trafficking and other crimes like drugs, violent crimes, and financial crimes. Schimel said he doesn’t believe public service announcements would be as effective as with the Heroin epidemic, but says one key to stopping human trafficking is bringing awareness to the issue and shutting down demand.”

A Brief History…

Dr. Joy Ippolito, the Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking Coordinator said in an interview with WKOW, “Anytime someone, it’s often an adult, is using that young person for a sexual act and promising them something of value, that’s sex trafficking. That thing of value doesn’t have to be money.” One of the warning signs of trafficking is if a teen is hiding details of a relationship or is coming home with items that they would not have been able to afford. The item of value could even be food or shelter.

A Dane County Juvenile Detention Center pediatrician reported in a 2011 Dane County study that she had weekly interaction with patients who were trading sex for a place to stay or to meet their basic needs. She estimated that about 90% of girls in the Juvenile Detention Center had a history of domestic minor sex trafficking.

According to research done by the Medical College of Wisconsin, between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2016, 340 individuals ages 25 and under were confirmed or believed to be victims of sex trafficking in the city of Milwaukee. This is likely to be an underestimate of the actual number of human trafficking victims, because it only includes the number that came in contact with law enforcement. Full demographic and historical data was not available for every victim, but 231 persons were analyzed closely. It was found that a majority (97%) of victims were females, and 149 of the 231 individuals were Black/African American. 86% had previous reported interactions with the Milwaukee Police Department. There is also a trend of individuals being reported missing and having been trafficked. 59% had a history of being reported missing.

Truck stops and rest areas are hubs for human trafficking. There are many truck drivers coming through Wisconsin, with its extensive highway system, being in close proximity to Chicago and being in the middle of the country. While older truck drivers may know the signs of trafficking, younger drivers are less aware of what to look for with trafficking because they are just concerned with getting from point A to point B. Rep. Joel Kleefisch introduced AB-540 in 2017 as a way to use truck drivers to fight trafficking and help victims. 2017 AB-540 and its companion bill SB-444 both required technical colleges and licensed private driver school commercial motor vehicle driver education courses to include education on the recognition and prevention of human trafficking. AB-540 passed in the Assembly on November 9, 2017. CDL Life News reports that Arkansas and Ohio have laws in place requiring commercial driver’s license holders to have human trafficking education.

And Today…

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Family Services is launching a new campaign called “Wisconsin, We Need to Talk” to raise awareness about human trafficking in Wisconsin. The campaign encourages the discussion of child sex trafficking, which affects all 72 counties in Wisconsin. Posters and social media will be displayed in public areas to give imagery and information about sex trafficking, published in both English and Spanish. The website can help anyone identify human trafficking and learn how to report it.

The campaign focuses on the trafficking of children and adolescents, but anyone can be trafficked or a trafficker. The website for “Wisconsin, We Need to Talk” cites a Wisconsin Statute that defines child trafficking, “In WI Sex Trafficking of a Child involves another person benefiting from forcing, defrauding, or coercing a child into a commercial sex act with another person (s.948.051 Wis. Stat).”

In response to the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act from 2014, the WI DCF requested input to create its three-part plan to address sex trafficking in Wisconsin. The federal act required all states to develop policies and procedures to address sex trafficking. The three-part plan includes the establishment of a Human Trafficking Task Force, creation of a DCF Anti-Human Trafficking Coordinator, and establishment of functional workgroups.

The Request for Proposal for Anti-Human Trafficking Regional Hub (Regions 1, 3, 5, 6, 7) opened July 20, 2018. The purpose of the hub is to serve youth in Wisconsin who are at risk or have been trafficked. The hub is intended to help victims and prevent future trafficking. “The AHT Regional Hub will be housed within an existing organization currently serving youth that employs trauma-informed practices, is knowledgeable about local service capacity and regional characteristics, and has strong relationships with youth-serving systems such as child welfare and schools, and systems that may interact with this population, including the courts and law enforcement.  An AHT Regional Hub is not intended to be a drop-in center for services. Rather, an AHT Regional Hub is designed to coordinate activities related to service delivery. The AHT Regional Hub will:
1. Assist county or Tribal child welfare workers, when requested, with developing a response plan for potential cases of sex trafficking;
2. Assist with coordinating multi-system service delivery for youth who are at-risk of or have been sex trafficked;
3. Support increased service capacity in areas where it is lacking;
4. Provide certain direct services;
5. Promote public awareness and prevention of trafficking activities in the region using DCF materials where available; and,
6. Strengthen cross-system collaboration across the region to address sex trafficking.”