National Human Trafficking Day: Signs of the crime

Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force working to prevent and end the crime in local...
Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force working to prevent and end the crime in local communities.(WBAY)
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 6:51 PM CST
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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (WBAY) - National Human Trafficking Awareness Day takes place on January 11. The Sheboygan County Human Trafficking Task Force cleared up misconceptions on what the crime looks like, and discussed how the community can help a victim.

“It’s all about supply and demand,” said Scott Wieldan, a detective with the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Office.

Human trafficking is a business.

“The Wisconsin state statute reads anything regarding recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining an individual for commercial sex acts or labor,” said Wieldan.

It’s a crime happening in Wisconsin.

A big misconception is that human trafficking only happens in big cities, but the scary reality is that all 72 counties in Wisconsin are victims to this crime.

“We’ve seen kids as young as 12 that have been in that vulnerable section and start to kind of dip their toes in ‘The Life’,” said Brandon Kehoe, a detective with the Sheboygan Police Department.

“The Life” is what being trafficked is called, and it doesn’t always work like what you’ve seen in movies or TV shows with people chained up in cages.

“They (youth) may go to school. They may live at home with their parents and maybe telling their parents that they’re with friends and then they’re off interacting with a pimp conducting commercial sex acts,” said Kehoe.

Some red flags could be having a child who shows up at home with valuable items such as jewelry or electronics, and may not be able to explain how they got them.

Some children being trafficked are runaways. However, many victims don’t realize what’s really happening.

Wieldan explained how a “Romeo Pimp” will take advantage of children who are searching for love and care. They manipulate the situation to form a pseudo relationship. Therefore, victims might be aware they’re in a bad situation, but not understand they’re being exploited.

Other signs of possible trafficking is when a person frequents motels or hotels, have branding tattoos, or does not have control of their own documents such as a driver’s license or social security card.

If you think someone you know could be in this situation, don’t hesitate to call authorities.

Wieldan and Kehoe also said victims might feel ashamed of what they’re going through and might not reach out for help. However, they should not feel any shame. The task force focuses on helping survivors move past the trauma and move forward in their lives without prosecution.

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