GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –Human trafficking took center stage in Grand Rapids this week as hundreds attended a conference hosted by the ‘Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force.’
Lawmakers in Michigan estimate that every month up to 150 girls under the age of 18 are sold into the world of sex trafficking, according to the task force it’s a $32 billion industry across the world.
Just a few months ago, the FBI released statistics on a nationwide bust. In a four-day sweep across the country around 150 people were arrested, 59 of them in the Metro Detroit area. Experts say it isn’t just in big cities like Detroit where human trafficking happens. Detective Sgt. Edward Price with the Michigan State Police ‘Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children Taskforce’ says he sees it in communities all across the state.
“We actually spend most of our time as a task force outside of the big cities and in the suburbs because that’s where they are getting their victims from,” said Price. “It’s an evil face you have a lot of adults out here tricking young girls and young adults who are in a bad place in life, selling them a pipe dream and making false promises to them.”
One big problem experts addressed Wednesday was the fact that many times victims are looked at as criminals. Price says he is working with investigators and local law enforcement to help them identify the signs.
“That’s one of the issues in changing the mindset of the public as well as training law enforcement officers, for years this has sort of been swept under the rug because they didn’t know what signs to look for.”
The FBI is also actually working to put together a Grand Rapid- based law enforcement task force like that one in the Detroit area to address human trafficking and other crimes against children.