LANSING — In a continuing effort to identify and rescue thousands of children and adults trapped in the forced sex and labor trades, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette recognized January 11 as National Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Day.
While law enforcement and other private and non-profit entities, such as the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission, the Michigan State University Human Trafficking Task Force and the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic, are working to combat human trafficking, Schuette said that educating the public to notice and report suspected cases of human trafficking is a vital part of saving lives.
“Bringing more attention to human trafficking is an essential part of identifying and rescuing children and adults trapped in the dark worlds of forced sex and labor,” said Schuette. “This crime does not just happen in the movies or on television. It is happening in the shadows every day, all around us. But, by learning what to look for, anyone can help identify and report suspected human trafficking to authorities.”
Schuette encourages citizens to take a few moments to learn more about human trafficking by visiting the following websites:
- State of Michigan www.michigan.gov/humantrafficking
- Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force https://www.facebook.com/MHTTF
- Michigan State University cj.msu.edu/programs/human-trafficking/
- University of Michigan www.law.umich.edu/clinical/humantraffickingclinicalprogram
If you believe you have witnessed or are aware of a potential case of human trafficking, call your local police or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888.
Michigan Human Trafficking Commission
In 2014, several bills recommended by Michigan’s first-ever Commission on Human Trafficking passed the Michigan legislature and were signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. The Commission-recommended bills included measures to provide ‘safe harbor’ for victims of human trafficking, strengthen the tools of law enforcement to hold traffickers accountable, and, 2014 PA 325 created a Standing Michigan Human Trafficking Commission within the Department of Attorney General to continue the work of the first Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking. Appointed by Governor Snyder on March 5, 2015, the Commission is comprised of representatives from government, law enforcement, medical professionals and advocates.
Human Trafficking in Michigan
Second only to drug trafficking, human trafficking is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world. Victims of human trafficking are in bondage through force, fraud or coercion, solely for the purpose of sex or labor exploitation. Children are especially vulnerable, and existing data sources strongly suggest that the current reported human trafficking statistics do not provide a complete picture of the prevalence of human trafficking in Michigan.
Upon taking office in 2011, Schuette launched the state’s first Human Trafficking Unit in the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute human traffickers under state law. Since 2011, eleven people have been charged with human trafficking by the Department of Attorney General.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also had an active presence in human trafficking cases in Michigan. In October of 2015, 19 underage victims were recovered and 12 pimps were arrested in the Detroit metro area as part of the FBI’s Operation Cross County IX.
Schuette served as one of ten attorneys general nationwide selected to lead the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Presidential Initiative on Combating Human Trafficking, called Pillars of Hope. Schuette works closely with his colleagues to craft a coordinated national strategy to combat human trafficking, including efforts to prosecute offenders, assist victims, analyze the impact of this crime and raise public awareness nationwide.