State agencies, convenience stores working to fight human trafficking

COTTAGE GROVE, Wis. (WMTV) -- Wisconsin state agencies are calling on gas station and convenience store employees to help fight human trafficking across the state.

Attorney General Josh Kaul announced a new partnership Tuesday with the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (WPMCA). The partnership also includes the Wisconsin State Patrol, the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Workforce Development.

The goal is to train employees at gas stations and convenience stores to recognize the signs of human trafficking and report it to law enforcement. Kaul said some of this training will happen through seminars.

"It’s a great opportunity for us because most all of the public visits our locations throughout the week. And if we can train our employees on how to recognize a situation and then how to report it, so that we can not only help eliminate this horrible crime but that we can help the victims," said Andrew Bowman, chairman of the WPMCA.

The partnership also aims to raise awareness of the issue among employees, and encourage employees to help educate the public through different training materials.

"There will be seminars for training but there will be on-site material and that material's not only for our employees, but it's for the general public to help educate them as they visit our store, and also when victims come in, they can identify that we're a safe place," Bowman explained.

On Jan. 9, the Wisconsin Department of Justice released the results of the 2019 Law Enforcement Assessment of Sex Trafficking in Wisconsin.

The Assessment found inconsistencies in how law enforcement agencies across the state report sex trafficking crimes.

January is also Human Trafficking Awareness month.