Seminar lays out issues surrounding human trafficking
Residents were invited to a free interactive sex trafficking seminar at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College on Thursday.
Charlie Glazman, associate dean of continuing education at WITC, wanted guests to gather in the college’s conference center to promote awareness and educate the public on sex trafficking in Douglas County as well as discuss the danger, causes and effects of trafficking.
“I suspect it is a big issue here in Superior,” Glazman said. “Sex trafficking is a the trending topic, so I brought it to the Criminal Justice Team of Douglas County, University of Wisconsin-Extension Office, Morgan Young and others to see if they would be interested in participating in an in-depth seminar on sex trafficking.”
Young, an immigration and poverty attorney with the Wisconsin Coalition against Domestic Violence in Madison, laid out the problem for participants.
“The pimps are very good at picking their victims out,” said Michelle Lear, Superior Police detective. “They look for young girls who are vulnerable and have low self-esteem. They target them and recruit them.”
“This presentation was definitely informative, it was eye opening,” said Douglas County District Court Judge George Glonek. “I think sex trafficking is a big issue here and it’s important for us to really understand it.”
Sex trafficking is on the rise nationwide, it has occurred right here.
Eugene Wearing, 53, of Superior, was charged with trafficking of a child among other charges.
He is accused of trying to entice a 15-year-old girl into having sex for money by placing ads on Craiglist,” according to court records. His next court appearance is in July.
Last October, Iron County, Wis., saw its first child sex trafficking case, in which three Milwaukee women allegedly delivered a 14-year-old girl from Milwaukee to spend the night with a 67-year-old Mercer man for $1,000, plus $300 for expenses, according to Iron County officials.
Pimps will use the Internet to connect with clients nationwide. The popular site pimps use to sell their victims and their services is Backpage.com.
“We use Backpage.com to follow the pimps and sex trafficking; it helps us catch them,” Lear said. “It can be hard getting people to talk, so this has been a nice resource for us to use. We also partner with Duluth police, talk to local hotel managers and conduct undercover operations.”
The Superior Police Department led an undercover operation in November that lead to six arrests.
Wisconsin has passed numerous laws that combat human trafficking; such as sex trafficking provision, labor trafficking provision and victims receiving access to civil damages so they can use the money to start a new life.
“There was a sex trafficking victim who couldn’t get hired here in Superior because prostitution was listed on her record,” Young said. “She ended up getting a job in New York, so she had to move there. She was a victim of trafficking ten years ago, yet she still had trouble landing a job here.”
‘We recognize the victims didn’t choose this lifestyle,” Lear said. “We try to work with the minors and find housing for them and more. Many of the victims don’t realize we aren’t after them, we are trying to go after their pimp.”
Act 362, designed to help in those cases, creates a process to have prostitution convictions vacated and expunged for trafficking victims.
In Superior, if the sex trafficking victims don’t have a place to stay, they can go to the Harbor House Crisis Shelter. If they need someone to talk to or want additional help then they can always call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. Police and trafficking advocates urge people to call local authorities if they suspect trafficking.
“If people are aware of what’s happening then make calls and notify us,” Young said. “We all need to combine our resources and work together to prevent sex trafficking. These victims shouldn’t have to suffer.”