Human Trafficking: Behind the increase in Michigan victims

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 “We have a problem in this state. in 2017, if my memory is correct, we had 350 cases of human trafficking” Lori said.

With hundreds of calls to a national trafficking hotline, the Great Lakes State has a big trafficking problem, a problem that is well known for a number of reasons.

“Michigan is a little bit unusual. We have the international boarder, we have, other than potholes, we have a pretty good transportation system and we are bordered by 5 different states.” Lori said.

Matt Lori is one of 9 members that make up the Human Trafficking Advisory Board.

a law passed in 2014 formed the group which is made up of nurses, members of law enforcement, even trafficking survivors.

They meet monthly to discuss their main goal, which is educating Michiganders — to find vulnerable victims

“A lot of these people involved in human trafficking are not able to reach out themselves for help because of the circumstances they’re in. So it’s come upon us to train other people in the community to be able to see that and hopefully report it.” Lori said.

State Senator Judy Emmons spear-headed the efforts to push Human Trafficking legislation threw Lansing with the main goal — changing the statute of limitations.

Now trafficking victims can go after their perpetrator up to 25 years after being trafficked.

That’s up from 6 years before the law went into effect. Together, almost 2 dozens bills have been signed into law. Victims can now have past criminal convictions expunged from their record, if the crime was committed while they were trafficked. Victims can now sue their perpetrator for mental and physical suffering. Also, all “Johns” must register on the sex offender registry if they are caught soliciting sex from a minor.

That law in particular is something the Senator wishes would have gone a step further.

(Full list of signed Michigan legislation below)

“There’s still the idea that somebody chooses to do this. That’s still a prevalent thought out there that they are an adult. What people don’t realize is they start out as children, they’re forced into it as children and are convinced this is what they should be doing by their boyfriends. They then aged into being an adult who is trafficked as well. We have some more work to do on that.” State Senator, Judy Emmons said.

The new laws also created the Human Trafficking Commission, a 13 member board, and unlike the Health Advisory Board, the commission is more state workers and is stationed in the Attorney General’s Office. The main goal of the commission is to supply tools and resources needed for law enforcement and Michigan community’s need to successfully fight Human Trafficking.

“I think we really have demonstrated that we have accomplished a lot of our goals. Again, it’s up to local entities to take the tools that we provide them and to implement them. I must say, this commission is very active and we have undertaken a lot projects and we do see the fruits of our labor.” Circuit Court Judge, Michelle Rick who sits on the Human Trafficking Commission said.

One of those tools put out by the commission is a video which shows hospitals how to spot and take control if a human trafficking victim walks through their doors.

For Senator Emmons, she is not done fighting for the victims and fighting to end human trafficking here in Michigan.

“We have to convince our colleagues (in Lansing) that this is not a consensual relationship. Not just because the person is an adult doesn’t mean they aren’t being misused and abused and they aren’t a victim. We have more convincing to do. Really just educating folks not just in the legislature but throughout society.” Emmons said.

*According to Senator Judy Emmons, the following is key legislation that passed in the legislature in recent years. The purpose is to bring a stop to Human Trafficking in Michigan.

Human Trafficking Legislation

Phase 1

SB 584 (EMMONS) Eliminating Statute of Limitations

Eliminate the statute of limitations for trafficking offenses and commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses.

SB 585 (NOFS) Safe Harbor

The bill increases the minimum age from 16 to 18 for prostitution-related crimes and prohibits local units of government from enacting ordinances that establish lower minimum ages. A police officer must immediately take into custody if they believe the person committing prostitution is less than 18 years old. The court then can determine if the individual is a victim of human trafficking and refer them to DHS for services.

SB 586 (ROCCA) Safe Harbor- Probate Court Jurisdiction

Probate court would have jurisdiction and continued jurisdiction concerning a juvenile less than 18 years of age found to be violating sections in the prostitution chapter. They would promptly conduct a hearing to determine if there is reasonable cause that the juvenile is a victim of human trafficking. The court shall refer the juvenile to DHS for services.

SB 587 (GREGORY) Safe Harbor- DHS Referral

DHS shall preform assessment/psychological evaluation and medical examination when the juvenile is referred to the department. In addition to any reunification, adoption or other services provided to a child under DHS’ care counseling services appropriate for the victim.

SB 588 (JANSEN) Affirmative Defense

An affirmative defense provision would allow a victim of human trafficking to introduce evidence of being a victim of trafficking as a defense to certain types of crimes.

SB 589 (CASWELL) Additions to grounds for termination of parental rights

The bill will now include offenses including sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses (CSEC) in order to remove the children of traffickers from their control and potential exploitation.

SB 590 (PROOS) Allow Victims to Sue Captors

To be known as the ‘Human trafficking victims compensation act’, this bill will allow victims to sue their captors for damages that result from physical and mental suffering, damage and destruction of property and expenses incurred.

SB 591(PROOS) Criminal Convictions Cleared

This bill will allow individuals to apply to have their criminal convictions cleared from their record if the offense was committed due to their status as a victim of a human trafficking violation.

SB 592 (PROOS) Medical and Psychological Treatment for Victims

This bill expands the social welfare act in the State of Michigan to include victims of human trafficking on the list of potential recipients for medical assistance benefits and psychological treatment.

SB 593 (WARREN) Modify Victim Status for Foster Care Minors who are Human Trafficking Victims

Allows for DHS to use a different status for children who are victims of human trafficking in order to provide them with additional services or to give special consideration that traditional foster care services may not be suitable for the victim. This is to avoid re-victimizing these children as they move from one placement to the next.

SB 594 (EMMONS) Municipality Ordinances for Adult Entertainers

The bill would allow municipalities to adopt ordinances requiring anyone working at an adult entertainment business (i.e. strip club) to obtain a permit from the municipality.  Some requirements for the permit would include background check.

SB 595 (GREEN) Adult Entertainment Business Customer Fee

The bill would require the business to pay a $3 fee for each customer who enters. The fee money is then deposited into the domestic violence and sexual assault fund.

SB 596 (ROBERTSON) Creation of Human Trafficking Board

Establishing a human trafficking board in statue ensures that this issue will be taken seriously and continuously. This will also ensure that the board can look into and can apply for federal grants for human trafficking.

SB 597 (WARREN) Training for Medical Professionals

Requires that medical professionals be trained to identify the signs of human trafficking in patients.

SB 598 (CASPERSON) Racketeering

Currently Michigan law does include child sexually abusive activity or material, computer crimes, prostitution and human trafficking under the racketeering definition. This bill would add another provision of a commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) offense— enticing a female away under 18 years of age (MCL 750.13) to the racketeering definition.

SB 599 (HANSEN) Prohibit Use of the Internet to Solicit a Minor

Michigan does not expressly criminalize the use of the Internet to lure, entice, recruit, or purchase commercial sex acts with a minor; however, the use of the Internet to communicate with a minor while intending to commit, or attempting to commit a violation of specified sexual offense laws is illegal.

Specifically prohibiting the use of the Internet to lure, entice, recruit or sell commercial sex acts with a minor as a separate crime adds another penalty for traffickers.

SB 600/SB 601 (JONES) Wiretapping (2 Bills)

Allow a prosecutor to utilize wiretapping.

SB 602 (HUNE) Require “Johns” to Register on the Sex Offender Registry

Requiring the purchasers of sex (aka Johns) to register on the sex offender registry is step in fixing the demand for sex and hopefully curbing human trafficking.

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