GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two people from West Michigan have been appointed to a state commission aimed at tackling human trafficking in Michigan.
Gov. Rick Snyder announced his appointments to two advisory groups dealing with human trafficking in Michigan Wednesday. Beth Emmitt of Byron Center and Mark Jansen of Grand Rapids were among the appointed.
“How do we get Michigan citizens to wake up? Human trafficking is happening in the state of Michigan. I think most people put their head under a bushel and go, ‘No, never could happen here in Michigan,’” Jansen said.
The two groups the Human Trafficking Commission and the Human Trafficking Health Advisory Board, will work to “further protect Michigan residents from human trafficking, fight repeat violations and improve survivor support service,” a Wednesday release from the governor’s office said.
There has not been any specific information released about what exactly the commission will talk about, but Jansen shared with 24 Hour News 8 what he would like to see discussed.
“Educate everybody; everybody under the sun. Every profession, whether it’s legislative or health professions or hospitality, you in the media, and average citizens,” he said. “If they see it, what are some of the indicators they should be looking at then what do you do?”
Rebecca McDonald, the founder of the Wyoming-based Women at Risk International, agrees education is a must.
“Fifty-six percent of trafficking victims go to an ER once and nobody sees them and 25 percent go there multiple times. They are crying out to be seen. They don’t dare say something because their traffickers are with them and once more the grownups in the world, the professionals, don’t see the cry,” she said.
McDonald says trafficking is about making money by forcing a person to do something they would never do on their own.
“Human trafficking is the fastest growing arm of crime,’ she said. “One every 30 seconds is enslaved in this world and for sure it is the fastest growing crime in America as well. It’s growing faster than gun and drugs.”
She said the U.S. Department of State estimates that around 300,000 minors a year are at risk of trafficking.
It happens here in West Michigan, she said.
“West Michigan has 2,400 minors, we’re talking kids, for sale at any given time, mostly on the Internet,” she said.
“We have an opportunity to set up the foundation for what this is going to look like and I think do it right, do it well. And that’s what I think the commission is really going to be tasked with,” Jansen said. “Also it’s, ‘Hey, you need to make Michigan proud and figure out a way to stop it here in Michigan.’”
McDonald said she sees the commission as a positive step.
“Progressive improvement is better than delayed perfection,” she said. “I’m so glad for all the steps we are taking as a state. We have a long ways to go.”
“I’m proud of all that we have done in Michigan to prevent human trafficking. We must keep working together to bring a stop to this dangerous threat that has affected too many in our state and nation,” Snyder said in the release. “I thank all of these appointees for their willingness to serve and I am confident their efforts will help ensure Michigan is doing whatever is possible to hold criminals accountable while strengthening protections for human trafficking victims.”
According to the release, the Human Trafficking Commission will be a 14-member group and will make recommendations to the Legislature to improve laws and rules to address human trafficking violations in the state. Appointees will serve two-year terms that will expire March 1, 2017. They will not have to be approved by the state Senate.