By. K.D. Norris
According to the local chapter of Women at Risk International (WAR), Michigan is one of the leading states for human sex trafficking. In many instances, hotels and motels, in both rural and urban areas, are prime locations for such activity.
And, when there are major influxes of people — including during major Grand Rapids area tourist events such as ArtPrize — instances of trafficking increase locally as well, also according to WAR.
The U.S. Department of State defines human sex trafficking as the “recruiting, harboring, transportation, providing, or obtaining of a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through force, fraud, or coercion.”
Human trafficking affects over 20 million victims worldwide — according to the Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C., based group battling human trafficking — with a total market value of over $32 billion. More than 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and this epidemic affects at least 161 countries worldwide. Between 100,000 and 300,000 underage girls are sold for sex in the United States every year.
“The act of prostitution is not new … in ancient civilizations there was prostitution … and sex trafficking is not new,”the act just used to be called “pimping,” said Detective Sgt. Julie Waters-Adams, the City of Wyoming Department of Public Safety’s representative on two groups combatting human trafficking in Western Michigan. “It is not a new crime, but as law enforcement we are looking at it differently. … As a society and law enforcement, we are looking at it differently. We are looking at the reasons why someone may engage in prostitution. And that is my not be their choice.”
Det./Sgt. Waters-Adams represents Wyoming on WEBCHEX, the West Michigan Based Child Exploitation team, as well as the Kent County Human Trafficking Taskforce. The first is a law enforcement focused group including federal, state and local agencies; the second is a local group generally more focused on helping victims escape the trade — part of the “different” way to look at the crime and battle it.
(For a YouTube video on Det./Sgt. Waters-Adams talking with WKTV Journal — In Focus, go here.
To view the West Michigan-based, Eclipse Award winning, docmumentary “Stuck in Traffic” by Rich Jackson and Lisa Zahodne, follow this link.
Another member of the Western Michigan victim-advocacy taskforce is the local chapter of WAR.