There's an increase in human trafficking in communities across our state. Now, law enforcement is trying to get more information out to the public.
In a Facebook live on the Michigan State Police's Facebook page, Trooper Amy Belanger with the Flint Post said Michigan is ranked 10th in human trafficking across the country. However, the state is ranked No. 2 in the nation for victim recovery.
The most common age of victims is between 13 and 16 years old. Belanger said 20 percent are male victims, though she believes that number to be much higher. She said younger victims are worth more money.
Belanger said the amount of major highways running through the state, as well as its proximity to Canada and surround states make it easier to transport victims from one place to another.
Belanger stressed human trafficking is happening everywhere in Michigan.
"Trafficking can happen anywhere. This is literally happening in every county, in every city of the state," she said.
Belanger said another common misconception is trafficking involves children from other countries. She said the majority of victims are "homegrown" and in 40 percent of cases, traded by family members.
Belanger said in Genesee County, the youngest victim known to be trafficked was 4 months old. Belanger said the infant was traded by its parents.
While many people focus on kidnappings related to human trafficking, Belanger said only three percent of victims are forced into the trade and most victims are tricked. The traffickers, or pimps, use social media to build relationship with their victims online. Children are groomed for long periods of time to believe they are in a relationship and loved by the trafficker, then they're asked to meet up or runaway with their abuser.
Another tactic used by pimps is to trick young teens using a marketing campaign. They claim to be from a modeling agency, offering security and health insurance. In another Genesee County case, investigators executing a search warrant found several posters advertising a modeling agency.
The posters had photos of beautiful young women, including the victim.
If you suspect a child is a victim, you're asked to call police or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
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