January is human trafficking awareness month, and the Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force has been giving presentations all week to spread awareness across the UP.
The recently re-assembled task force has teamed up with local and federal law enforcement agencies and will hold two more seminars today.
When you hear the term human trafficking, chances are you think of illegal aliens who were smuggled into the country. However, Homeland Security Agent Todd Wilton explained the difference between human smuggling and trafficking and says that’s one of the misconceptions that the team hopes to clarify through this series of presentations.
Michigan State Trooper Alan Narhi was a speaker last night at the Jutila Center. “So we’re here bringing awareness to human trafficking and letting people know what’s out there and what to look for,” said Narhi.
Volunteer task force member Jessica Hurley says that the signs of human trafficking are not always easy to detect. Hurley said, “Human trafficking is modern day slavery. It really hides in plain sight and that’s why it’s so difficult to spot out.”
Hurley says that body language is often times an indicating sign and the public should be on the lookout for things that seem out of place. “Children or women that are in positions that really don’t seem like they should be in. For instance, a young girl that looks really uncomfortable with an older man walking into a hotel,” Hurley said.
Trooper Nahri says that the road to recovery can be lengthy for victims and discussions like these help spread the word about victims’ advocate services. “Through presentations like this, you’ll see that there is a lot of support out there for that so when they do get recognized or identified, there are services for them that can help in keeping them safe and getting them back on their feet because these people have been through a lot.”
The team began visiting UP colleges on Monday and will hold two more Keweenaw area discussions Thursday.
A discussion will be held in the Memorial Union Building on the Campus of Michigan Tech at 10:00am, and another Thursday evening at 5:oopm on the campus on the Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, in L’Anse.