Human trafficking is a criminal justice and social issue receiving increasing attention at the local, state and federal level. While the prevalence of sex trafficking in Wisconsin is difficult to estimate since it is often underreported, it can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender or nationality.
Human trafficking is a crime (https://www.doj.state.wi.us/ocvs/human-trafficking#htlaws) that hides in plain sight. Often, it takes an astute police officer, hotel worker or bystander to notice and speak up — and save a victim.
The Wisconsin State Patrol works closely with the Wisconsin Department of Justice to provide enhanced and consistent training to law enforcement and private sector partners across the state. All state patrol officers — including cadets at the State Patrol Academy — receive training related to human trafficking. The training covers the basic “indicators” of human trafficking — what types of things to look for, what questions to ask and possible options for officers if they need to connect a victim with available social services.
“Many myths and misconceptions of human trafficking exist," Wisconsin State Patrol Captain Ryan Chaffee of the Northeast Region/Fond du Lac Post said. “We encourage people to visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign website (https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign) to learn more. Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life.”
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized each year on Jan. 11. In recognition of this day, Blue Campaign hosts a social media campaign called #WearBlueDay. People are encouraged to post a photo wearing blue clothing along with the hashtag to call attention to this crime.
The safety of the public as well as the victim is paramount.
“Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to any suspicions. It is up to law enforcement to investigate suspected cases of human trafficking,” Chaffee said.
Individuals encountering a situation that they suspect is human trafficking are advised to be a safe/smart observer. They should gather as much information as they safely can, which includes vehicle description, occupant description and license plate number.
Individuals may call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733. If there is an immediate danger, call local law enforcement or 911.