The Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force held its first meeting recently, with 37 members from public and private organizations sharing their experiences of the sexual exploitation of young people and their efforts to eradicate modern day slavery.
Victim advocates, as well as the results of investigations nationwide, have identified Wisconsin as a hub of human trafficking.
The nonpartisan task force is co-chaired by Attorney General Brad Schimel and Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson, who ended the meeting with a challenge.
“We challenged everyone in the room to make this a true working group — one that works to improve training, law enforcement, prevention, awareness, advocacy, resources for victims seeking help, sensible legislation, counseling and other direct services to survivors, housing for survivors, and aftercare,” Schimel said, according to a news release. “We have to protect our children and what we saw in the room was a group of people who are willing to work hard and to show progress.”
Just a few weeks ago, a 15-year-old girl was rescued from the sex trafficking by DOJ-Division of Criminal Investigation agents. Undercover officers found her information posted on an Internet site under “escort.” She had been reported missing since late October.
“Every time we get a glimpse of this crime, we are alarmed with what we see,” Schimel stated. “We ask ourselves, ‘How can this be happening?’ We have an amazing multi-disciplinary group from all across this state. If anyone can accomplish something, it is this group.”
Human Trafficking exists in small and large cities, towns and villages, both urban and suburban. A statement from the task force said municipalities with truck stops or clusters of inexpensive motels can be centers for human trafficking, which is why one player in the effort to combat the crime is Truckers Against Trafficking.
The task force is working with local and regional human workgroups to better coordinate prevention, training, data collection and service delivery efforts. Through enhanced planning, resources and communication, the state-level task force will offer additional support to existing efforts, increase public awareness of the issue, create statewide practices and expand residential and community-based services throughout Wisconsin.
The task force will oversee five work groups: Training; Identification and Screening; Prevention and Public Awareness; Placement and Services; and Data.
Schimel said, “We heard from many eloquent and passionate advocates today and there are many more in the room who did not have a chance to talk simply because there was not enough time at this first meeting. I challenge you to hold this task force’s feet to the fire and demand that we do something.
“There is so much we know we need to do to prevent the spread of this scourge and to turn victims into survivors. If we do our work well, we can make our social services and criminal justice systems friendly and more welcoming places for victims. Until they truly believe they can count on us to really help, they will not come forward.”