Coalition continues to combat human trafficking in Monroe County – Monroe Evening News


Law enforcement officers in Monroe County are being provided pocket field guides to help them spot indicators of human trafficking.
Several of the guides were distributed last week during a joint meeting hosted by the Monroe County Anti Human Trafficking Coalition (MCAHTC) in observation of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
In attendance at the United Way of Monroe/Lenawee Counties, 216 N. Monroe St., were representatives from the coalition, Michigan State Police, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Monroe Public Safety Department and the Community Foundation of Monroe County. Local law enforcement agencies were provided an update on the organization’s activities and provided human trafficking field reference guides for officers.
According to Mary Kapp of the Monroe County Anti Human Trafficking Coalition, the guides will be provided to officers on patrol and corrections officers as a reference guide to human trafficking indicators. For example, the guide includes photos of what kinds of tattoos victims of human trafficking might have.
“It is a great guide to give indicators for human trafficking and it will be a great resource for all law enforcement officers,” said Kapp, a retired MSP commander. “We were able to work with the Community Foundation to purchase them.”
Approximately 250 guides were distributed with a future goal to provide guides to all first responders.
The coalition works closely with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and its VIPER (Violent Internet Predator Exploitation Response) task force to combat human trafficking.
Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex or soliciting labor or services against the person’s will, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ website.
“The guide provides law enforcement with increased knowledge and awareness of the signs of human trafficking, so they can effectively identify and respond to this type of crime,” said Monroe Director of Public Safety Chad Tolstedt. “This is another step that we are undertaking locally to help those who are victims of human trafficking.”  
In addition to the reference guides, the coalition and the sheriff’s office are launching a training initiative about the indicators of human trafficking to educate employees at motels, commercial vehicle fueling stations and rest areas in Monroe County and the city of Monroe.
“We want to get out here and educate the public and those entities on the signs of human trafficking. We’ve done outreach before in Monroe County but got a little bit behind because of COVID,” Kapp said. “Now, with the VIPER task force team, it’s a great time to be able to partner and go out and do that.”
According to Detective Sgt. Mike Preadmore of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, since the creation of the VIPER Task Force in July 2021, 12 operations have been conducted through Monroe County and 17 arrests were made.
Kapp said the Monroe area is more at risk for human trafficking due to freeway access, the international border and its proximity to Toledo, which has more freeway access and is known as a hub for human trafficking in the region.
Although human trafficking is a crime that’s not typically reported, Kapp is hopeful this will change as the public becomes aware of the task force’s presence.
“We’re a good area for people to be passing through. It’s here in our backyard,” Kapp said. “We want to focus on the survivors but we also want to focus on getting the johns arrested. The people who are actually coming out and buying people. If we can address that issue, that is one way we can combat human trafficking.”
Monroe County Sheriff Troy Goodnough said educating the public could turn into an annual outreach program especially due to the high employee turnover at convenience stores and gas stations.
“Our vision at the sheriff’s office is to annually get out there and educate the motel clerks and the cleaning people that can be our eyes and ears,” Goodnough said. “These books will be a valuable asset for us to be able to go out and educate these folks and hopefully they’ll start calling.”
The mission of the Anti Human Trafficking Coalition of Monroe County is to restore human dignity and empower trafficking survivors, ending victimization. It aims to prevent sex and labor trafficking through community awareness, education, training and legal advocacy.
Citizens can get more information on human trafficking from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign at www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign, Polaris at polarisproject.org, and Truckers Against Trafficking at truckersagainsttrafficking.org. To report human trafficking call 888-373-7888, text “BeFree” 233733 or contact the VIPER Task Force at 734-240-7535. Tips can be made anonymously.

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