In this Nov. 7, 2019 file photo, Wisconsin Attorney
General Josh Kaul speaks during a rally at the State
Capitol in Madison, Wis. A new report a report released by
the state attorney general on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020 finds
that law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin are not
consistently reporting human trafficking cases. Kaul told
The Associated Press that the report shows more work needs
to be done to improve data collection, raise awareness of
the problem and expand support for victims.
MADISON — Law enforcement
agencies in Wisconsin are not consistently reporting human
trafficking cases, leading to incomplete information and is
likely undercounting the number of people who are forced into
the sex trade, a report released by the state attorney general
on Thursday found.
The conclusion is based on
responses from hundreds of Wisconsin law enforcement agencies
that responded to a state Department of Justice survey sent in
2019. Attorney General Josh Kaul told The Associated Press in an
interview ahead of the report's public release that it shows
more work needs to be done to improve data collection, raise
awareness of the problem and expand support for victims.
“There has been a growing
recognition that this is a real issue that is happening in
communities across the state and needs to be taken
seriously," Kaul said. “It's a crime we need to keep
working to address."
Human trafficking is generally
defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to move someone,
typically to make them have sex for money.
The goal of the survey was to
gather more details about the perceptions, policies and
data-entering practices of law enforcement agencies. The results
show there's still room for improvement among police agencies in
consistently collecting and recording human trafficking data,
The report found that due to
confusion about the legal definition of human trafficking and
data entering practices, law enforcement agencies were likely
undercounting the number of cases in the state.
Between 2014 and 2017, there were
118 incidents of human trafficking entered into law enforcement
records management systems. An additional 139 incidents that
were either prostitution or human trafficking were also entered
by agencies that don't differentiate between the two. In 2018,
there were 66 human trafficking incidents entered and 35 that
were either prostitution or human trafficking.
The state Justice Department's
Human Trafficking Bureau initiated 125 cases, recovered 138
victims and made 105 arrests between September 2017 and December
2019, according to statistics provided by Kaul's office. It has
also worked to spread awareness about human trafficking to both
police and the public, holding 148 training presentations.
Law enforcement agencies said in
the survey that they need more training on how to differentiate
between prostitution and sex trafficking. They also expressed a
need for more training about child sex trafficking.
While sex trafficking cases have
been reported in every Wisconsin county in recent years, the
survey showed more work needs to be done to raise the public's
awareness about the crime, Kaul said.
More attention has been placed on
the problem in recent years, with the Wisconsin Legislature
passing a number of bills to expand the definition, increase
penalties and raise awareness. One recently enacted law allows
for a person to be charged with sex trafficking for making money
off victims or transporting them, even if there is no force,
fraud or coercion. Another law, signed in November by Gov. Tony
Evers, requires driver education courses for truckers to include
teaching how to recognize and prevent human trafficking.