Human Trafficking in all 72 counties of WI!

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Local group hopes to bring awareness to Wisconsin human trafficking

SCHOFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) — There is at least one reported case of human trafficking in all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. To help combat this problem locally, two churches joined to host a training session for volunteers in Marathon County.

Although north central Wisconsin may not be thought of as a problem area, authorities said Wausau and other cities are increasing in human trafficking cases.

Volunteers gathered Saturday in Covenant Community Presbyterian in Schofield to learn how they can help spread awareness in the community.

“We’re going to send members of our church out to every gas station and hotel in about a 30-40 mile radius to try and train those staff members, because we think they’re the front lines. Those are the folks that are most likely going to noticed the warning signs of human trafficking,” said Jim Gates, pastor of Covenant Community.

Some warning signs include young girls with an older man, a child or woman who appears to be afraid and who may have noticeable bruising.

Tourism increases in summer, as does human trafficking. But people in the community are stepping up to fight the crime with awareness campaigns and training.

“Our goal is pretty clear; that as a community, we will not tolerate this behavior,” said Ruth Wrysinski, a member of Covenant Community and coordinator of the anti-trafficking campaign.

One group that is especially vulnerable is children, and this is true even in the Wausau area. In fact, Gates said just recently he learned of a trafficking recruiter working in a local school.

“I was speaking with somebody from the Women’s Community just last Sunday, and she said they were aware of an individual in one of our Wausau high schools who was prepping 13 girls to be trafficked in our community,” he said.

Terra Kowslowski works with Damascus Road, a group that works in Wisconsin and nationally to bring awareness to trafficking, and she said there are warning signs for parents.

“Look for changes in music, changes in appearance; how their child is dressing,” she said.

Paying attention to these little things both as a parent and as part of the community may help to save a life.

“Be aware, be the eyes and the ears, don’t hesitate to report a tip to law enforcement,” Wrysinski said, encouraging people to always know your surroundings.

If you see something suspicious, contact your local law enforcement or call the National Human Trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888.