Human trafficking is a criminal justice and social issue receiving increasing attention at the local, state, and federal level. While the prevalence of sex trafficking in Wisconsin is difficult to estimate since it is often underreported, it can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality.

Human trafficking is a crime that hides in plain sight. Often, it takes an astute police officer, hotel worker, or bystander to notice and speak up—and save a victim.

The State Patrol works closely with the Wisconsin Department of Justice to provide enhanced and consistent training to law enforcement and private sector partners across the state. All State Patrol officers—including cadets at the State Patrol Academy—receive training related to human trafficking. The training covers the basic “indicators” of human trafficking—what types of things to look for, what questions to ask, and possible options for officers if they need to connect a victim with available social services.

“Many myths and misconceptions of human trafficking exist,”said Wisconsin State Patrol Capt. Travis Wanless of the North Central Region/Wausau Post. “We encourage people to visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign website to learn more. Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life.”

The safety of the public as well as the victim is paramount.

“Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to any suspicions. It is up to law enforcement to investigate suspected cases of human trafficking,” Wanless said.

If you encounter a situation that you suspect is human trafficking, be a safe ad smart observer. Gather as much information as you safely can, including a vehicle description, occupant descriptions and license plate numbers.

Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733. If there is an immediate danger, contact local law enforcement or 911.