Few Human Trafficking Cases Reported so Far
Last year Michigan lawmakers invested a vast amount of their time and energy in creating human trafficking laws that focused on saving the victims and prosecuting the perpetrators. But in the intervening time since those laws have hit the books, the Michigan State Police say that very few human trafficking cases have been reported. Which, from a state labeled as being one of the nation’s worst locales for human trafficking, doesn’t seem to make much sense.
According to the MSP, an email went out to police departments across Michigan from State Police headquarters just recently, explaining that in 2014 only 3 human trafficking cases were reported. Only three cases. So what’s going on? Why aren’t there more instances of human trafficking here in the mitten state?
As Andrea Bitely explains, it’s not that they aren’t happening, it’s that they are so hard to identify and keep track of. Bitely is a spokesperson for Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Office, where human trafficking is considered to be a very big deal, and is pursued as such. According to Bitely, victims of trafficking are usually unwilling or unable to speak up, such is the nature of the crime, and so the traffickers often go unreported.
In January of 2013, the FBI began collecting data on human trafficking around the nation courtesy of a federal law passed on 2008. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program mandates that all states must gather and submit data on two types of human trafficking, namely indentured servitude and prostitution. But the national data for 2014 has not yet been released, and so we have no idea if Michigan’s low trafficking crime numbers are in keeping with the rest of the country.
According to the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, while some aspects of this problem are going to take years to overcome, one of the issues that they can address quickly is the issue of training. By providing some intensive training to law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, counselors, and other professionals who are likely to encounter trafficking victims during the course of their work, it will become easier to identify cases that need intervention.
But according to David Leyton, the Genesee County Prosecutor who is also a member of Michigan’s human trafficking task force, one of the greatest tools available in the fight against trafficking is civilians. Regular people who probably encounter trafficking victims on a regular basis and don’t even know it. People who, if properly armed with information and awareness, could make a difference. And save a life.
Knowledge is power. So if you would like to be a “civilian first responder” and be alert for trafficking in your community, then you need to know what to look for. The U.S. Department of State website provides a very informative list of clues for the average citizen to keep a look out for. So keep your eyes open while you’re out and about. And if you happen to be on the other end of this equation and need some help with a trafficking accusation against you, we are here to help.