PORT WASHINGTON — Officials from the Ozaukee Sheriff’s Office and the Ozaukee County Human Services Department educated the Ozaukee County Board last week about human sex trafficking and drugs.
Local students also attended the meeting as part of Youth Government Day — so the presentations served as a warning for when they are out in the world.
Mike Buechler, detective at the Sheriff's Office, and Anna Ackerman of the LPC Children’s Unit in the county’s Human Services Department, presented information about sex trafficking. Both have worked in cases involving sex trafficking.
"It’s not a new thing," Buechler said. "It has been around. It’s kind of referred to as the invisible crime both locally and nationally."
Buechler and Ackerman reported that all 72 counties, including Ozaukee County, have had cases of human sex trafficking involving minors. Buechler also added that the Milwaukee area has one of the highest rates of trafficking activity in the country. "The scary part about that is Milwaukee is only a 20-minute ride from here," he said.
It is estimated that 4.8 million people are trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). The median age for entering the life of sex trafficking is approximately 12 to 14 years old. NCMEC identified between 72 to 75 sex trafficking cases in Wisconsin in 2021.
In 2020, statistics showed that 42% of sex trafficking victims were recruited by a family member or caregiver and 39% of sex trafficking victims were recruited by an intimate partner.
“The days of thinking that trafficking is a scary male driving around in a white-panel van with a basket of candy and puppies in the back seat trying to lure you in are gone,” Ackerman said. “This is what is called the modern-day version of slavery.” Statistics that Buechler and Ackerman provided showed that during COVID-19, common recruitment sites were down 70% and schools were down 38%. But the internet was reported as the top recruitment location for all forms of trafficking, which increased by 22%.
Buechler and Ackerman recommended the students practice safe internet and social media use and keep open lines of communication with safe caregivers/family members. They also encouraged that if you see something, say something, but do not directly intervene, find and tell a trusted adult.
Detective Sergeant Nick Depies of the Sheriff's Office and Carly Wallner, an LPC substance abuse counselor in-training in the Human Services Department, described the different drugs found in the county and how to seek help for drug addiction.
Depies said the drugs currently seen in the county are marijuana, prescription drugs, heroin/fentanyl, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy/Molly), synthetics (K2, bath salts, spice) and methamphetamine.
In 2021, the rate of all opioid deaths was 20.4 per 100,000 in Ozaukee County, while 2020 was 12.4 per 100,000, according to the Wisconsin Department of Human Services. In the county from 20142021, the average rate is 9.9 per 100,000 residents, while the total death count for all years is 70.
Depies mentioned fentanyl and how it’s approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and approximately 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.
Fentanyl is being found in all types of drugs, including stimulants (cocaine and methamphetamine) and opioids, according to the Wisconsin DHS. It is being pressed into pills and mixed into other drugs.
In September of 2022, the Wisconsin DHS put out a public health advisory about the increasing presence of fentanyl in overdose deaths in the state. In 2022, synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were identified in 91% of opioid overdose deaths and 73% of all drug overdose deaths.
The Wisconsin DHS also reported that the number of fentanyl overdose deaths in Wisconsin grew by 97% from 651 in 2019 to 1,280 in 2021.
Depies said all that is needed for a lethal dose of fentanyl is as small as a tip of a pencil.
Narcan (naloxone) can reverse a fentanyl overdose and other overdoses. It is available through the county, call the Washington Ozaukee Public Health Department at 262-284-8170.
The county’s Department of Human Services provides different services such as outpatient and group therapies to address substance use. Any Ozaukee County resident can call 262-284-8200 and speak with an intake worker for services and treatment options.
“It’s a judgment-free zone … we’re here to help you, not here to penalize you,” Wallner said.
Where to find help
- Advocates of Ozaukee: 262-284-6902
- Pathfinders’ Safe path hotline: 414-271-1560
- COPE: 262-377-2673
- Pathfinder’s emergency youth shelter (ages 11-17): 414-271-1560
- Walker’s Point (ages 11-17): 414-647-8200
If you are being trafficked, if someone you know is being trafficked or you suspect that someone is being trafficked, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling
888-373-7888 or text 233733.