Column: Fight human trafficking at home
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and the Oakland County Human Trafficking Task Force (HTTF) is continuing its efforts to combat this serious issue in Oakland County.
The bipartisan Oakland County HTTF was created in response to the real and ongoing threat that human trafficking poses to some of the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities, and to the health and safety of all Oakland County residents. As members of the Task Force, we are committed to finding innovative and effective ways to raise awareness about this cruel and illegal activity, prevent its occurrence, and protect and rehabilitate victims. We are joined in our commitment by the other Task Force members, which include representatives from both the Oakland County and Michigan Departments of Health and Human Services, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, Oakland County Youth Assistance, Oakland Schools and victim services agencies CARE House and Common Ground. The combined efforts and expertise of the task force members and our partners will continue to be critical to our success.
Over the past year, we have all worked hard on the objectives outlined for the Task Force and together have made some important strides. For the first time, we secured county funding for community outreach, training and prevention efforts. We have also made tremendous progress expanding our partnerships, making critical connections between key collaborators in our local communities and across county departments, law enforcement agencies, state and local government offices and area social service organizations, all with the shared goal of fighting human trafficking.
Next week, the Board of Commissioners, in partnership with the Oakland County Health Division and Sheriff’s Office, will announce the launch of the new Oakland County Human Trafficking website, the culmination of a tremendous collaborative effort on behalf of the Task Force members and their partners, and perhaps our most important achievement to date. The new website will serve as the primary source for information about human trafficking in Oakland County, providing information and support for victims and their advocates, parents and professionals, and anyone interested in learning more about the issue and how to help.
The press conference announcing the website launch will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Board of Commissioners Auditorium at 1200 N. Telegraph in Pontiac. Speakers will include Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard, director of the Oakland County Health Division Kathy Forzley, and Chief Eric Hawkins of the Southfield Police Department. Several Oakland County judges and representatives from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, Homeland Security, the FBI and numerous local law enforcement departments and social service agencies will be in attendance to show their support of the ongoing and collaborative effort to fight human trafficking in Oakland County.
The press conference is open to the public, but those unable to attend can watch it live at www.oakgov.com/boc.
The authors are all Oakland County commissioners and serve on the Oakland County Human Trafficking Task Force.