Secrets of the streets

The problem of sex trafficking in Michigan

By Elizabeth Casella
Staff Writer

On Oct. 15 in Detroit an FBI sting operation rescued 19 teenage girls who were used as prostitutes in the metro Detroit area and other parts of Michigan. Detroit police worked with the FBI to rescue the girls that ranged in age from 13 to 17 and arrested 12 alleged pimps that were involved in sex trafficking.

The operation was a part of a national effort to combat sex trafficking involving children as young as 12 years old. Michael Glennon, FBI Supervisory Special Agent, led the sting and reported that the operation occurred over a week. The suspects arrested were both male and female and mainly operated out of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Most of the girls rescued were returned to their families, but some have since returned to the sex trade.

“The inherent nature of prostitution is somewhat fluid, so it’s not uncommon for one girl who starts working for one pimp to go to another pimp,” Glennon said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.

It is not uncommon in Michigan for arrest and situations such as these events to occur. Michigan is the second state in the country for the highest cases of sex and people trafficking. It occurs in all regions of the state and is a threat to anyone. The main victims of these crimes are females’ adults and minors. Many victims are either abducted or runaways.

“I did not realize how dangerous it was and how high the rates for sex trafficking in this area were. It is sad to say that living my life every day I don’t think of these thing or these risk that could affect me because of the lack of exposure there is,” said Livonia resident Collin Schmidt.

Gov. Rick Snyder in 2013 announced a new team for fighting these crimes that complied the Human Trafficking Commission. This new commission was aimed at finding these victims and rescuing as well as stopping the crimes, in addition to having a greater emphasis on prevention methods.

“It truly is horrible how big of an issue sex trafficking is in the state, but at the same time I sadly am not surprised. With the border to Canada so near and easily accessed, it makes it easier for these pimps. It is a shame that the state has such a problem with this though. It worries me to think about how at risk I really am,” said Schoolcraft student Abigail Foreman.

Detroit stings recently have been among some of the most successful nationally. These police investigations occur mainly online to find victims and operations throughout the state. Without online insights most cases would not have been successful, but the network of human trafficking is very interconnected which is beginning to make it easier for law enforcement across the state to stop those responsible.

“Our office is pleased with the success of the operation in metro Detroit, but we, along with all of our law enforcement partners, do not stop here,” said David Gelios, special agent in charge of the FBI Detroit Division.  “This is all part of an ongoing effort to continue to free victims of human trafficking, and arrest the individuals that commit these crimes.”

Widespread awareness and prevention is important. Many victims of abduction are not paying attention or are alone in areas where they should not be. It is important to be aware of surroundings and stay in groups whenever possible, as well as knowing the area. Law enforcement can only do so much to stop the criminals, but prevention can help save many lives as well.

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