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Schuette Statement on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

January 10, 2014

             LANSING -  Attorney General Bill Schuette today offered the following statement in support of January 11th being designated National Human Trafficking Awareness Day:

"A young girl who is forced into prostitution is a victim, not a criminal," said Schuette.  "Every day, our citizens - many of them children - are bound in the chains of modern day slavery.  Our daughters, friends, and neighbors are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude and other forced labor by criminals who take advantage of them.

"We have seen human trafficking victims robbed of their childhood, their health, their dignity, their families, and even their lives.  Last year, 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.  I am optimistic 2014 will be remembered as the year Michigan turned the corner toward a victim-centered approach in the fight against human trafficking." 

The Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, co-chaired by Attorney General Schuette and Representative Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth) met for more than six months in 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: Data Collection, Victim Services, Professional Training, Public Awareness, and Legislation/Policy.

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:

  • 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.

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.  In July 2013, the FBI launched "Operation Cross Country," a 76- city operation to rescue trafficked children and arrest traffickers.  This year, law enforcement officials in metro Detroit witnessed the second-highest number of children liberated (10) and the highest number of pimps (18) arrested nationwide.  This evidence, coupled with 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 a case 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 works 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 http://1.usa.gov/19gLprE.

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