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"A Victim-Centered Approach" Schuette Announces 2013 Report of Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking

Contact: Joy Yearout 517-373-8060

 

November 6,  2013  

LANSING -  Attorney General Bill Schuette today unveiled the 2013 Report on Human Trafficking by the first Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking.  The Commission, co-chaired by Schuette and Representative Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth), Chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, was bi-partisan in nature and included members of the state legislature, law enforcement, state government, and anti-trafficking activists. 

"Every day in America, human traffickers prey on the vulnerable to force them into providing commercial sex or labor.  We have seen human trafficking victims robbed of their childhood, their health, their dignity, their families, and even their lives," said Schuette.  "The work of the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking shined a light on these criminals, vividly illustrating that this is not just a problem for the world – it is a problem for Michigan.  And now the real work begins." 

 "As an attorney and chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, I have a professional responsibility to fight human trafficking and eradicate it from our state; as the father of two teenage daughters, I have a moral obligation to ensure that no child, and no parent, ever has to be a victim to this horror," said Commission Co-Chair, Representative Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth), Chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee. "We want the pimps, johns, and human trafficking criminals out of our state.  We will make it clear that human trafficking will not be tolerated in Michigan that you will be caught, and you will be punished."

The Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking met for more than six months, beginning in March of 2013.  Commission members held more than 60 meetings and met with countless stakeholders, including: victims, law enforcement, legislators, victim advocates and service providers, academicians, and national experts.

The Commission conducted a formal review of the following five areas:

  1. Data Collection -  Reviewed strategies to collect statewide data so policymakers and law enforcement can assess progress in their efforts to tackle this growing crime. 

  2. Victim Services  - Reviewed victim needs and determined how those needs can best be met at the local and state level, including how to coordinate private and public sector assistance.

  3. Professional Training - Reviewed existing training efforts and determine how they can be enhanced and expanded.  "Professional" is broadly defined to include various groups who may encounter human trafficking:  law enforcement, health care providers, social service providers, hospitality providers and those in code enforcement and regulatory agencies.  

  4. Raising Public Awareness - Developed strategies to raise public consciousness and awareness of the crime of human trafficking.

  5. Legislation and Policy - Reviewed the current legal framework governing human trafficking and determined whether new legislation or policy changes are required.

"I pledge my full support toward implementing this action agenda presented by the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking.  We must pass legislation to improve our ability to bring traffickers to justice and to rescue and provide for victims' needs.  We must raise public awareness about this crime and engage our local communities in the effort to combat it. And every step we take must revolve around a victim-centered approach, one that honors, loves and respects the children, women and men exploited through this terrible crime," said Schuette.  

After more than six months of review, the Commission developed wide-ranging recommendations as an action-oriented agenda for policymakers.  The report's key recommendations include:

  • Strengthening Legal Protections for Human Trafficking Victims - The Commission calls for the passage of a Safe Harbor law to ensure minor victims are treated as victims in need of services, not criminals.

  • Expanding Real Assistance for Human Trafficking Victims -  The Commission recommends expanding housing for trafficking victims who have nowhere to turn after being rescued from their trafficker.

  • Toughening Laws to Target Traffickers and "Johns" - The Commission recommends increasing penalties for "johns" who solicit sex from 16 and 17 year-olds from a misdemeanor to a felony.  The Commission also recommends strengthening state forfeiture laws to reduce trafficker's ability to profit from the exploitation of children, women and men.

  • Increasing Public Awareness  - The Commission recommends a statewide public awareness campaign and human trafficking poster law to elevate the discussion and awareness that human trafficking happens in the Great Lakes State.

  • Tracking Our Progress  - The Commission recommends the implementation of a standard, comprehensive method for capturing human trafficking data from entities that interact with trafficking victims.

"The recommendations contained in this report provide the roadmap for a comprehensive approach to Human Trafficking not presently existing in Michigan.  If implemented, better intervention strategies, tools for the justice system, and protection of victims are within reach," said Jane White, Director, Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force.

 

"This report is the first time a broad coalition of stakeholders has worked to combat human trafficking in Michigan.  These recommendations made by prosecutors, lawmakers, advocates, survivors, and academicians are the essential next steps that must be taken in the fight against human trafficking.  I applaud the commission led by Attorney General Bill Schutte for issuing this report.  However we cannot stop here. We must all now take up the report's recommendations and put them into practice in order to protect victims of human trafficking," said Bridgette Carr, Director, Human Trafficking Clinic, University of Michigan Law School.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery and it is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world, after drug trafficking. 

Victims of human trafficking are in bondage through force, fraud or coercion, solely for the purpose of sex or labor exploitation.  Children are especially vulnerable, and existing data sources strongly suggest that the current reported human trafficking statistics do not provide a complete picture of the prevalence of human trafficking in Michigan.  This Commission already identified 312 confirmed victims by surveying a limited group of service providers.  Coupled with the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Division's 2011 report of 29 human trafficking cases in Michigan and the FBI's recovery of ten children in "Operation Cross Country" in July 2013, the Commission's Report puts forth strong evidence that human trafficking is underreported in Michigan.   

 Upon taking office in 2011, Schuette launched the state's first Human Trafficking Unit in the Attorney General's Office to prosecute human traffickers under state law.  Since then, Schuette's Human Trafficking Unit has arrested nine individuals on human trafficking charges, secured seven human trafficking convictions, with cases against one additional defendant currently pending. 

        Schuette served as one of ten attorneys general nationwide selected to lead the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Presidential Initiative on Combating Human Trafficking, called Pillars of Hope.  Schuette is working closely with his colleagues to craft a coordinated national strategy to combat human trafficking, including efforts to prosecute offenders, assist victims, analyze the impact of this crime and raise public awareness nationwide.

The 2013 Report on Human Trafficking is available for download online at www.michigan.gov/ag.   

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