Human trafficking cases rise in Wisconsin

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

Wisconsin saw 63 reported cases of human trafficking in 2016, including 53 cases of sex trafficking and eight cases of labor trafficking. Two cases involved both.

That’s up from 2015, when 50 human-trafficking cases were reported to a national hotline from Wisconsin.

Since 2007, the hotline has received reports of 268 cases of trafficking in the state, according to Polaris — a group dedicated to ending modern slavery that takes its name from the North Star, which that guided slaves in the U.S. to freedom.

For Wisconsin, Polaris reported:

  • More cases involved U.S. citizens than foreign nationals.
  • Nineteen cases involved minors and 43 involved adults.
  • The majority of victims or survivors were female.
  • The types of labor trafficking reported included domestic work, agriculture, sales and health and beauty services.
  • The venues for sex trafficking included residential brothels, commercial-front brothels, the street and hotel/motel-based work.

National increases also noted

The D.C.-based Polaris recently released its national and state-by-state human trafficking case data for last year. The data came from the organization’s National Human Trafficking Hotline and the BeFree Textline and showed an increase of 35 percent in cases nationwide.

The hotline and textline operators handled a record 8,042 cases in 2016. There were just under 6,000 cases in 2015.

Polaris said greater awareness of human trafficking and the hotline and related resources resulted in more people than ever reaching out for help.

“Not only did the National Human Trafficking Hotline handle a record number of reported cases and hear directly from more survivors than we ever have before, but the data from the thousands of calls received each month are better illustrating the various types of sex and labor trafficking present in the United States,” said Bradley Myles, Polaris’ CEO. “The more we are able to target efforts at specific types of trafficking, such as domestic work or sex trafficking in cantinas and bars, the more effective we can be in reaching survivors and preventing exploitation in the first place.”

Other findings in the national analysis:

  • Most victims or survivors of sex trafficking were recruited by intimate partners, family members and those posing as benefactors.
  • Victims or survivors of labor trafficking were most often lured by fraudulent job offers and false promises.
  • Victims were predominantly people of color.
  • U.S. citizen victims outnumbered foreign nationals.
  • The types of labor trafficking most often reported included domestic work, agriculture and traveling sales crews.
  • California had the most cases, followed by Texas, then Florida.

In a separate report released March 29, Polaris proposed a classification system that identifies 25 distinct types of human trafficking in the United States. Myles described the “The Typology of Modern Slavery” as a “map to understand how human trafficking manifests throughout the country.”

Human Trafficking Hotline

The 24/7 National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 is a confidential, multilingual service that provides survivors of human trafficking with support and a variety of means to get help and stay safe.

The BeFree Textline at 233733 offers the same services.

Did you know?

According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index that ranks 167 countries, an estimated 46 million people are subject to some form of modern slavery, which the GSI defines as “situations where one person has taken away another person’s freedom — their freedom to control their body, their freedom to choose to refuse certain work or to stop working — so that they can be exploited.”