Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and an egregious violation of human dignity. Traffickers exploit children, women, and men regardless of age, race, ethnicity, national origin, or socioeconomic status. The exploited victims suffer both physically and psychologically. Human trafficking represents a “dark stain on our societies” that adversely impacts our economic stability, national security, and the rule of law. Quantifying human trafficking in Michigan is difficult due to lack of uniform data reporting and the nature of the crime itself. But we do know that it continues to be a growing problem in our state. According to (Baldas, 2013)
“Over the last decade, criminal dockets have detailed tragic accounts of children sold for sex at truck stops, servants held in captivity and forced to clean for free, and women forced to enter the sex industry and provide profit for their traffickers”(p.2). From urban centers like Detroit and Grand rapids to rural communities in the state’s Upper Peninsula, reports of trafficking have made headlines. Cases like these vividly illustrate the need for a comprehensive response to this crime. What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that occurs on an international, national, and local scale. Whether in the smallest town, rural areas, medium sized cities, villages, big cities- there is nowhere in Michigan that has not been touched by this issue. According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Human trafficking is defined as:” The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose on involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery”(p.1) . Human trafficking exploits people through compelled service. Thousands of people each year both within the United States and abroad-fall victim to this horrific crime. In Michigan, children, women, and men are compelled into prostitution, domestic servitude, and other labor for little or no pay. According to the Department of Health and Human Services “Reports indicate that human trafficking is second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world”. (p.3) The Crime of Human Trafficking
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I) sex trafficking of adults involves the exploitation of a person for commercial sexual activity through force, fraud, or coercion. However, sex trafficking of a child does not require a showing of force, fraud, or coercion” (p.5). Victims of sex trafficking are often forced to engage in commercial sexual activity such as prostitution, exotic dancing, and pornography. Labor trafficking, in contrast, entails the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor services. Victims are commonly forced into domestic servitude, agricultural labor, restaurant work, or sweatshop factory services. Often, working conditions are unsafe, and compensation is minimal or nonexistent. The 2011 amendments to the Michigan Human Trafficking Act “explicitly prohibit recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for labor or services” for the purpose of holding that person in involuntary servitude or debt bondage. According to the (Baldas, 2013)
“Although prevalent, human trafficking operations are difficult to detect. In a 2012 review of 140 closed human trafficking cases involved 379 offenders and 190 victims from across the country , the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) reported that the majority of trafficking incidents (43%) occurred in private residences”.(p.4) the use of which makes it easier for trafficking to conceal their activity from police surveillance. Hotels (8%) restaurants/bars (6%) and massage parlors (3%) were also identified as common trafficking locations. In addition, traffickers use other tactics to avoid detection. For example, trafficking often involves hiding and moving victims, rendering reactive policing strategies ineffective. The NIJ study noted that local brothels often strategically direct clients to arrive and depart during normal business hours, when most people are at work, in order to avoid attracting any attention to the illicit operation. Policy Obstacles
There are many obstacles facing policymakers and law enforcement officers who attempt to address and eradicate this repulsive crime, including the lack of comprehensive data that reveals the true extent of this illegal and immoral activity. In March 2013, Attorney general Bill Schuette and State Representative Kurt Heise, in cooperation with Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Legislature, launched the first Michigan Commission on human trafficking. Their mission was to develop a comprehensive statewide plan to uncover and prevent human-trafficking within Michigan. To raise Public Awareness, developing strategies to raise public consciousness. Human Trafficking is Both a National and State Problem
Despite the rapid global growth of the human trafficking industry many American tend to view it as a crime that occurs “somewhere else”. According to (Finklea, 2013) of the sex trafficking cases; 83% involved U.S. citizens and 40 % involved the position or sexual exploitation of a child” (p.6). In Michigan, there is a serious and growing problem with human trafficking as evidenced by actions taken by federal law enforcement agencies. According to FBI, “more pimps were arrested in metro Detroit than in any other city involved in the crack down. Law enforcement liberated victims from private homes in Romulus and Flint, as well as from hotels in Madison Heights, Farmington Hills, Southfield, and Detroit”(p.8). Victims and Society
Trafficking victims often exhibit signs of serious bodily abuse. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS, 20012) “These signs include bruises, broken bones, burns, brandings, and scaring. Victims may also suffer from infectious diseases like tuberculosis and hepatitis, which spread in overcrowded, unsanitary environment or sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS and even mental symptoms”(p.10). The impact of human trafficking goes beyond the suffering of its victims. It also adversely impacts our economic stability, national security, and the rule of law. Human trafficking is a financial drain on the economy. It cost incorporates many elements, including the “value of all resources devoted to its prevention, the treatment and support of victims, and the apprehension and prosecution of offenders”