No Love for Michigan Human Traffickers: A.G. Schuette Announces 8th ConvictionContact: Joy Yearout 517-373-8060
February 14, 2014
LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the conviction of Jackie Robinson Harris, 36, of Auburn Hills, who was charged on allegations of human trafficking for sexually exploiting a 16-year old girl from Southeast Michigan by recruiting her to work as a prostitute. The charges followed an investigation by the Michigan State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) through the Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children Task Force (SEMCAC).
"Human traffickers are luring Michigan children into dangerous situations where they will be sexually exploited," said Schuette. "Our daughters, friends, and neighbors are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude and other forced labor by criminals who take advantage of them. This conviction should send a message to traffickers: target our children for sexual exploitation and you will pay the price behind bars for a long time."
“I want to commend our SEMCAC Task Force partners, the Michigan State Police and the Special Agents of the FBI who worked tirelessly to ensure a just verdict in this case," said Paul M. Abbate, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office. "The SEMCAC partnership has proved to be a powerful resource for Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies to combat human traffickers and protect our most vulnerable citizens. The FBI remains committed to this partnership, and its strong and effective advocacy for the children of Southeast Michigan.”
“The Michigan State Police is committed to working with our federal and local law enforcement partners involved with the SEMCAC Task Force to combat human trafficking in the State of Michigan. Human trafficking is a horrific crime and perpetrators who commit these acts of violence will be sought out and brought to justice. I am pleased with the verdict and outcome of the investigation,” said Michigan State Police Captain Monica Yesh.
Jackie Harris was accused of recruiting a 16 year-old Pontiac girl to work as a prostitute in Southeast Michigan. On February 13, 2014 an Oakland County jury convicted Harris on the following two charges:
1) One count of Human Trafficking - Recruiting a Minor for Child Sexually Abusive Activity, a 20-year felony; and,
2) One count of Prostitution - Transporting a Female, a 20-year felony.
The jury acquitted Harris on one count of Prostitution - Accepting Earnings and one count of Criminal Enterprises - Acquire/ Maintain (Racketeering). Harris returns to Oakland Circuit Court on March 6, 2014 for sentencing.
This is the 8th human trafficking conviction secured by Schuette’s Human Trafficking Unit since it was launched in 2011.
Children Vulnerable to Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is modern day slavery and it is the second-largest and fastest-growing 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. Under Michigan law, recruiting a minor for the purposes of sexual exploitation is human trafficking. According to the Department of Justice, 40 percent of human trafficking cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child.
Human Trafficking Under-Reported in Michigan
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. Law enforcement officials in metro Detroit witnessed the second-highest number of children liberated (10) and the highest number of pimps (18) arrested in the nationwide operation. This evidence, coupled with the recent report issued by the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, puts forth strong evidence that human trafficking is underreported in Michigan.
The Michigan Commission on 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. 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 2013 Report on Human Trafficking is available for download online.
“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. I’m pleased to see many legislators are already moving to codify the Commission’s recommendations into law,” said Schuette.
National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking
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.