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The Truth About Human Trafficking in Michigan

Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud or coercion. While human trafficking is at an all-time high in Michigan, not everything you read is true. Learn more below.

1. Michigan is #2 in the nation in human trafficking

FALSE. While Michigan has seen a significant increase in human trafficking, our state is not second in the nation.  Michigan actually comes in around #7-#11 in statistical ranking by the FBI.  The “#2” statistic comes from a sting that the FBI- Exploitation Unit participated in called “Operation Cross Country” that targets traffickers and works to recover juveniles from their web of crimes. The Detroit FBI Team made the second most arrests and recoveries in 2016. This has led to misinformation indicating we have one of the worst trafficking problems in the nation, when in actuality, we have one of the best teams for combatting the issue.

2. More than 1,000 children go missing each month in Michigan

TRUE. Michigan law enforcement takes more than 1,000 reports of missing children every month (actual reports fluctuate between 1,000 and 1,400 reports each month). Most of these cases are voluntary, as in runaway cases, and most are resolved within a couple days. However, these kids are still at risk.

3. One in five runaways get involved in sex-trafficking

TRUE. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) released a formal report to the FBI in 2017 raising the former statistic of 1 in 6 children, to 1 in 5.  This is very alarming to law enforcement, as most missing juveniles are considered a “runaway” and may not receive immediate investigative attention. This should not be the case with a statistic like that.

4. Victims of human trafficking will immediately ask for help and will self-identify as a victim of a crime

FALSE. Due to a variety of factors, including fear of their trafficker, self-blame, or the shame of being identified as being involved in sex-acts, victims may not share their situation. Often the victim is concerned about the fear of arrest or possible deportation, which may also inhibit the victim from reporting the incident.

5. Human traffickers are following my kids around at the mall, gas station, schoolyard, etc.

FALSE. There have been multiple viral social media posts about how someone was followed around a grocery store or mall by “two creepy men” or that someone tried to pull on their passenger door while they were pumping gas. There was also the myth of the flannel shirt on the windshield. All of these purported as “human trafficking incidents” have been debunked as myths.

It’s not that these scenarios couldn’t happen, but the reality is that most sex-trafficking incidents in Michigan start out with a victim meeting the traffickers online.  Contacts mostly begin on social media apps like KIK, Tinder, and even Facebook and Snapchat.  Any social media app that allows communication can be potentially dangerous to your child and especially if the app has a GPS locator! GPS location can tell the predator EXACTLY where your child is located.  The victim may think the communication is innocent at first, but it may become aggressive, with the person asking to meet in person, or the person may attempt some type of a fraud, like making a job offer or a date in disguise as a sex-trafficking introduction.

If you suspect a child is being sex-trafficked or is in a labor trafficking situation, contact law enforcement or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.  If you have information about a missing person in Michigan that you are concerned is at risk, contact the Michigan State Police Missing Persons Clearinghouse at MSP-MissingPersons@michigan.gov.