Leaders push for more training to combat human trafficking: 'A vitally important issue'

MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is calling for more training among law enforcement officers on how to investigate human trafficking.

"So that law enforcement agencies are appropriately distinguishing between crimes of prostitution versus cases where what they are actually seeing is human trafficking," Kaul said.

For example, Kaul said what initially appears to be a prostitution complaint may, in fact, turn out to be a victim who is being coerced to trade sex for money.

Carmen Pitre

"When we blame victims, we continue to perpetuate the stereotypes," says Carmen Pitre, president and CEO of the Sojourner Family Peace Center. "We divert our attention from the real focus, which is, 'Why do we have people who believe they can own other human beings this way?'"

With help from community partners, like Sojourner Family Peace Center, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office charge 26 traffickers and pimps in 2019, while referring survivors of trafficking to necessary resources.

Kent Lovern

"Work has been done, good work has been done to this point," says Kent Lovern, Milwaukee County deputy district attorney. "It's only because we're working together across all sections."

City leaders say that collaborative effort is vital now more than ever in the wake of the Democratic National Convention. Common Council members are requesting the police chief prepare and present his strategy on how the Milwaukee Police Department will combat human trafficking surrounding the major event.

Alderman Bob Donovan

"This is a vitally important issue, and one that, for whatever reason, human trafficking has plagued Milwaukee for a long, long time," said Bob Donovan, alderman for Milwaukee's 8th district.

Already planned, MPD is holding workshops next month with the local hospitality industry -- teaching workers to recognize and report the warning signs of human trafficking.

Alderwoman Milele Coggs

"To me, it's the responsible thing for us to do as a city to attempt to prevent as much (trafficking) during this time as possible," said Milele Coggs, alderwoman for Milwaukee's 6th district.

A law enforcement survey also found that there isn't a clear legal definition of human trafficking, nor a consistent data-entry process -- likely resulting in under-counting of the number of cases across the state.