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 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 Jason Zeeh of the Southwest Region said. “We encourage people to visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign website to learn more: (https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign). 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 January 11. In recognition of this important 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,” Capt. Zeeh said.
If you encounter a situation that you suspect is human trafficking, Be a safe/smart observer. Gather as much information as you safely can:
- vehicle description
- occupant descriptions
- license plate number
Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733. If there is an immediate danger, contact local law enforcement or 911.