Roger’s interview follows; please read this important information first
Sex trafficking is not a victimless crime and it’s happening in Madison, each and every day.
Signs a person might be a trafficking victim:
- Poor hygiene, malnourishment and/or fatigue
- Physical signs of abuse
- Few or no personal possessions
- Frequently monitored
- Not in control of money, financial records or bank account
- Not in control of their ID
- Not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party could be translating)
- Claims they’re just visiting or can’t clarify where they’re staying
- Little knowledge of whereabouts
Please do the following if you suspect trafficking:
Call 9-1-1 immediately. This is the best way to help a victim now. It is better to call and be wrong than not to call when you should have.
If possible, please have the following information available:
- Physical description of the suspected trafficker and trafficking victim
- Location where seen
- Other identifying information: vehicle, license plate, etc.
If you are at a hotel and suspect trafficking, report the incident to police. If possible, report the hotel room. The police will be able to do a well person check.
If possible, also call the following if you witness potential trafficking:
The National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can also text them at 233733. They capture and disseminate information nationally.
For victim assistance, call Project Respect at 608-283-6435, ext. 14
Other ways you can help
Educate yourself and spread the word. This problem won’t end until more people understand how widespread and serious it is.
Use TraffickCam. If you travel for work or vacation and stay in hotels, download and use this app. It lets you take photos of various elements of your hotel room and can help find where sex traffickers are committing their crimes.
Trafficking victims need your help.
Thank you for caring.
My day job is being a detective with the Madison Police Department. I’ve been with the department for 29 years and have spent the last 10 focusing on human trafficking and high-risk missing children, two segments with a lot of overlap.
Many people in our area have no idea how common and pervasive sex trafficking is here. It’s hard to know how many people are being trafficked on any given day because recruiting and selling happens online and on social media—including gaming and dating sites. But somewhere in the hundreds is a fair guess.
Often, a young victim will be brought into the system by someone they think is a friend—traffickers use trafficked kids, called “bottoms,” to recruit others. The bottom might connect with a potential victim at a mall or over social media; they might make it look like something desirable—a way to make some money in a short amount of time.
Historically we’ve used the word “prostitution” and described what was happening as a victimless crime between two consenting adults. The reality is very different: it’s sex trafficking and it involves selling a person. Many victims were indoctrinated at a very young age; 12-14 isn’t unusual. There may have been mental health issues, drug addiction, violence and coercion. To survive, physically and emotionally, the victim often goes through a transformation where this lifestyle becomes acceptable.
The police department is working to address trafficking in a number of ways.
One is demand suppression. We have tools that allow us to find the johns, the people purchasing sex, then use both punishment and education to stop them.
Another is by looking at the people being sold. Instead of treating them as a criminal, we now look at them as a victim. There are endeavors underway to expunge prostitution charges from someone’s history.
We’re also using software and other tools to find the traffickers. And we’re partnering with people who are likely to see trafficking activities, for instance hotel employees and truckers. Their awareness has been very important and it’s made a big difference.
The police can’t tackle this on their own. We need everyone’s help.
My most memorable caffeine was the coffee beans one of my recruits brought along when I was the field training officer. That was certainly a jolt of caffeine!
My current caffeine of choice is black coffee—my morning fuel.
My favorite place for caffeine is usually my house—I make it there and bring it along to work. But lots of officers like to stop by the Cargo on South Park.
The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is someone in local government who has influence over how resources are allocated. The scope of this problem is huge but getting resources to address it is an ongoing struggle. I’d love a chance to make sure that message is heard and get the resources we need.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: Trafficking.
With perfect clarity, I’d create a multi-disciplinary resource made up of non-profits, law enforcement, community agencies, social service organizations and concerned citizens. Trafficking is an issue that can’t be solved by one group; we must all work together.
If we could pull all these resources together in one central place, that would really drive things forward. We could provide trauma care, mental health assistance, education—everything a victim needed in one place instead of having to hunt each of those elements down and go from place to place to get what you need.
We’re quite fortunate in Dane County and in Wisconsin that there are a number of groups doing great work. But our efforts are disjointed and siloed. We could do so much more together.