Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Human Trafficking in Wisconsin, USA

From Chippewa.com:

MADISON — Human trafficking is happening in Wisconsin, but most law enforcement agencies haven’t received any training to recognize the crime and don’t consider it a problem, a new state report says.

The Office of Justice Assistance’s study marks the first attempt to gauge trafficking in the state. It concluded international and domestic trafficking involving dozens of victims is taking place in urban and rural areas across much of the southern two-thirds of the state.

But three-quarters of the justice agencies and more than a third of social services providers surveyed in the study said trafficking is not a serious problem or isn’t a problem at all.

“This is an indication of the lack of awareness,’’ the report said. “At the very least, the results indicate a need for training and education.’’

Tim Dewane is the director of the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s Office for Global Justice and Peace in Elm Grove and a member of the Milwaukee Rescue and Restore Coalition, which was launched by the federal government to raise human trafficking awareness. He said the report’s findings aren’t surprising.

“When Wisconsin or anywhere else has taken a closer look at human trafficking, they realize for most law enforcement it hasn’t been on their radar screen,’’ Dewane said. “This isn’t just a global issue but has local ramifications as well. Hopefully (the report) will open up some eyes.’’

The state Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on a bill that would outlaw human trafficking. Anyone caught trafficking a person for sex or labor would face up to $100,000 in fines and 25 years in prison. Anyone caught trafficking a minor could get 40 years.

Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, the author of the bill, said the report may drive him to amend it to include police training.

The report calls human trafficking the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Federal justice and immigration officials estimate as many as 17,500 people are trafficked annually into the U.S. for sex and forced labor, the report said.

The highest profile case in Wisconsin involved a pair Brookfield doctors who forced a Philippine woman to work as their maid for nearly two decades. The couple was convicted in 2006.

But hard data on victims in the state is nonexistent. The Office of Justice Assistance sent out a survey to police, sheriffs and prosecutors as well as social service providers early last year hoping for more information.

Of the 261 justice agencies that responded, only 6 percent said they had run across a case they considered slavery or human trafficking.

Thirteen percent said they didn’t know if they’d ever encountered a case, and 7 percent said they’d had any training on human trafficking.

Read the full article

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