Human Trafficking a Growing Concern in Michigan, But Just How Serious is It?

Human trafficking is a crime that occurs in every state, some more than others. Unfortunately, Michigan (and in particular West Michigan) has come under the radar for being ranked second in the U.S. for trafficking, a statistic that isn’t accurate according to Michigan State Police. MSP claims there has been a “significant increase” in human trafficking in the state, however whether Michigan experiences more of this offense than other states similar in size is a debatable topic. sad-silhouette-1080946-m

According to Michigan Department of Health & Human Services human trafficking is the second most common criminal offense in the state behind drug crimes. What is human trafficking? Simply stated, it’s controlling victims using fraud, coercion or force for the purpose of participating in labor services or commercial sexual exploitation against the victim’s will. Sometimes referred to as human sex trafficking or simply sex trafficking when the victim is coerced or forced to engage in the commercial sex industry, this crime is viewed by many as a type of modern-day slavery.

Michigan State Police claim the FBI ranks the state 10th in the nation for human trafficking; this ranking is based on the arrest data police agencies across the U.S. submit to the FBI. Others claim that Michigan is #2 right behind Nevada, with up to 150 young females in Michigan taken into sex slavery on a monthly basis. Who do we believe, and what is the truth?

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the top venues or industries for sex trafficking include escort services, hotel based venues, illicit massage businesses, online ads and residence-based commercial sex. The agency’s 2016 data report lists Michigan as #6 in terms of the number of calls received by the hotline for that year, and while it’s obvious countless numbers of these types of offenses go unreported, California was in the top spot at that time with 4,188 calls vs. Michigan’s 838 calls. Regardless, one call is one too many.

Rumors have been circulating for years on the internet about children or minors being stalked by predators in parking lots, stores and malls, however police have reportedly investigated many of these reports and claim there is no evidence the rumors are true. Anti-trafficking advocates say that pimps are too smart and slick to go to public locations where there are usually surveillance cameras and crowds to choose their victims, and that predators typically target those most vulnerable such as neglected or abused children who run away from home or are otherwise isolated or struggling.

Human trafficking isn’t a third-world problem; unfortunately, nearly 28% of recorded cases in 2016 involved U.S. citizens. These are statistics that are known, and considering a vast number of cases go unreported, we don’t fully realize the true scope of the problem. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline there was a 35% increase in recorded reports of human trafficking in the U.S. in 2016, the majority of cases involving sex trafficking and many of the victims children. Around the world, sex trafficking is a nearly $100 billion per year industry according to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization.

We don’t really know for certain whether Michigan is no. 2, 6 or 10 in the U.S. in terms of most human sex trafficking cases per state, or none of the above. In our state or any other in our country, no child or even adult should be subject to the horrors of this ugly trade. Anyone who suspects human trafficking is urged to call the National Human Trafficking hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888 and remain anonymous, or you can submit tips online.

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