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Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office adding full-time anti-human trafficking detective to force

$119,000 is being added to the department’s budget to pay for the salary of one full-time anti-human trafficking detective.
$119,000 is being added to the department’s budget to pay for the salary of one full-time anti-human trafficking detective.
Published: Feb. 13, 2022 at 10:33 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - An agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Madison says more law enforcement agencies are making fighting human trafficking more of a focus, and for good reason.

National data from the Polaris Project shows predators are finding victims to traffic through social media sites, messaging them and grooming them virtually. In 2020 the Polaris Project found recruiting victims online rose 22-percent. Using Instagram to do it rose 95-percent, and using Facebook increased by 125-percent.

Police in Madison say the area poses an additional human trafficking challenge, the interstate.

“It’s easy to come in and out of the city advertised online and mobility, they can move victims from state to state,” explains Madison police Detective Shannon Siirila. “On a normal day if I was in my office looking at ad, I’m seeing an average of 100-150 ads for sex exploitation ads per day. You can find these on any communication platform dating sights; Facebook, Snapchat, Bumble.”

Siirila is the sole anti human trafficking detective with the Madison Police Department.

“iIt is a very lucrative crime for a criminal. It’s low expenditure. They might have to buy the victim fast food and a hotel, but the exchange is so high,” explains Siirila.

Just this year, Detective Siirila got certified to conduct child human trafficking interviews specifically. Plus she’s working with other community partners here in Madison to provide more resources to victims. She says in Madison, cases are on the rise, and more needs to be done community wide.

Over at the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Dritan Lazami is the only member of the force assigned to human trafficking cases. And with his workload, he doesn’t have time to investigate all of them.

“Unfortunately it’s reactive. It’s really hard to try to do proactive cases when you’re assigned other cases to work as well,” says Lazami.

But that’s about to change. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett says just last month, the county added $119,000 a year to pay for the salary of one full time anti human trafficking detective.

“We’re finding out that dark side of the data that opposite side that’s not being reported. And that’s where we knew there was an issue and we needed to solve it,” says Barrett.

The Shariff says over the next few years, he wants to add even more.

“Ideal would be three detectives, several deputies as well as a supervisor like a sergeant, and a team effort to really be able to be effective in Dane County as well as the state of Wisconsin,” says Barrett.

A local group that helps survivors of human trafficking called Project Respect helped 120 survivors last year alone. That’s compared to 101 the year previous. Project Respect connects survivors with resources like food and clothing to mental health services and counseling for free. The director of Project Respect says human trafficking can happen to anyone.

The traffickers are really smart. They understand peoples’ vulnerabilities. They know how to season and groom and to manipulate people. They’re masterful. So this could happen to anyone,” says Jan Miyasaki.

For help, call Project Respect at 608-283-6435. Or you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to that number. Or click here for Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking resources.

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