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Human trafficking often is hidden in plain sight

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 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 (DOJ), 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.

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,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Capt. Craig Larson. “Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking, is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life.”

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,” said Larson. “It is up to law enforcement to investigate suspected cases of human trafficking.”

If someone encounters a situation that is suspected of human trafficking, be a safe/smart observer. Gather as much information as possible, such as vehicle description, occupant descriptions and license plate number. Then, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

If there is an immediate danger, contact local law enforcement or 911.