Calley calls on all to fight against human trafficking

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Thursday that everyone in Michigan needs to have a hand in fighting against human trafficking.

“Every person in every community must be a part of it,” he said. “If you’ve got a pulse, you’re part of this movement.”

Calley made the remarks during his address to the Detroit International Human Trafficking Summit at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit.

“I was very pleased to receive the call to be here and be a part of this conversation for what will hopefully be a long-term movement to not just reduce, but to eliminate, human trafficking in Michigan and beyond,” he said.

About 280 community leaders, government, law enforcement and human service organization officials attended the event, organized by Liberty & Freedom Now, a Detroit-based nonprofit that works to raise awareness about and end human trafficking.

“We’re trying to broaden the conversation about human trafficking with this summit,” said Reneé Axt, a volunteer with Liberty and Freedom Now. “We want more people to have more tools to make our communities safer from human trafficking.”

Liberty & Freedom Now has scheduled next year’s summit for June 26 at Cobo Center, she said.

Speakers at this year’s event included human trafficking survivor and author Theresa Flores, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and state Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan. They covered topics ranging from what human trafficking is to how to spot it and fight it to its impact on the community.

Human trafficking is defined as a form of modern-day slavery in which criminals use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against their will.

It’s a major issue across the country and in Michigan, said Aaron Muscatello, coordinator of the FBI’s Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes Task Force.

“It’s girls and boys being pulled into this lifestyle from every community every where across the United States,” he told the conference. “It’s not an inner-city problem. It’s not a suburb problem. It’s an everybody problem.”

For the first three months of 2016, Michigan ranks sixth in the number of reported human trafficking cases with 74, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. The center provides a hotline and resources to help the victims and survivors of human trafficking in the United States.

California is first with 305, followed by Texas at 141, Florida with 136, Ohio with 98 and 81 in New York. Delaware was last with fewer than three reported cases.

Last year, Michigan ranked eighth with 152 cases. Since 2007, it has had 630 cases, according to the center.

In 2014, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that made life in prison the penalty for human trafficking in Michigan and permanently created a state Human Trafficking Commission within the Attorney General’s Office. It also created the Human Trafficking Health Advisory Board for the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Calley said the state’s laws are changing to combat human trafficking, but that’s not going to eradicate the problem.

“We’re changing laws, but I don’t think that’s going to be enough,” he said. “We need to create safe harbors to make sure we’re addressing all of the things that prevent a person from escaping (from human traffickers).”

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Reported human trafficking cases in Michigan by year

*2016: 74

2015: 152

2014: 131

2013: 118

2012: 69

*As of March 31

Source: National Human Trafficking Resource Center