According to a new study released on March 1, Wisconsin is the national hub of human trafficking, with Milwaukee at the center of a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that has commercialized sexual exploitation as a form of modern slavery.

Analysis of incidents of sex trafficking in Milwaukee seeks to inform further responses to trafficking. The multi-agency collaboration plans to release a report estimating the magnitude of sex trafficking of juveniles and young adults in the City of Milwaukee from Jan. 1, 2013 – Dec. 31, 2016.

The project was made possible with funding by the Bob and Linda Davis Family Fund, and was produced in collaboration with the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, the Medical College of Wisconsin Institute for Health and Equity, Rethink Resources, Milwaukee Sexual Assault Review, and Milwaukee Police Department – Sensitive Crimes Division.

“Human trafficking involving youth is a serious and pervasive issue that is a form of violence prioritized in the Blueprint for Peace,” said Reggie Moore of the City of Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention. “We have to do more to prevent the exploitation of children and youth in our community.”

Using MPD records data, 340 individuals aged 25 and younger were identified as having been sex trafficked, or were believed to have been sex trafficked, between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2016 in Milwaukee. Because information required for further analysis was not available for all individuals, 231 were analyzed. The majority of the individuals analyzed were female (97 percent or 225 individuals), Black/African-American (65 percent or 149 individuals), and were confirmed victims of sex trafficking (81 percent or 187 individuals).

One hundred and twenty-six individuals (55 percent) were juveniles at the first reported incident of suspected or confirmed sex trafficking; the remaining 105 individuals (45 percent) were between the ages of 18 and 25 at the first reported incident of suspected or confirmed sex trafficking.

“We hope this report builds on current discussions around the issue and leads to additional collaboration with other agencies in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of sex trafficking in Milwaukee so we are better equipped to respond and prevent it,” said Mallory O’Brien, director of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission and adjunct assistant professor in Institute for Health and Equity at Medical College of Wisconsin.

The analysis takes a public health approach to sex trafficking, including an analysis of victims, circumstances surrounding the trafficking, and historical factors that may have increased the vulnerability of a victim. The recommendations generated in the report were developed in collaboration with the Milwaukee Sexual Assault Review (MSAR), Proactive Outreach for the Health of Sexually Exploited Youth (POHSEY), Collaborative Rapid Advocacy for Youth (CRAY), and various group homes in Milwaukee. This ensured the recommendations address the policy needs of criminal justice, medical, advocacy, and social service systems that come into contact with victims of sex trafficking.

“This project highlights the great work that can be done when there is collaboration between systems,” Milwaukee Police Department Sensitive Crimes Captain Aimee Obregon said. “There are public health, medical, criminal justice system, child and family services, and social service agencies working together toward a common goal: to gain a better understanding of sex trafficking in the City of Milwaukee and develop strategies to address it.”

“The City of Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention is committed to working with the Homicide Review Commission, Human Trafficking Taskforce and other partners to address this issue,” Moore added.

Due to the volume of data collected, multiple supplements to the report will be released at a later date. Supplements will include additional data analysis, discussion, and recommendations. A copy of the full report, Estimating the Magnitude of Sex Trafficking Risk and Victimization of Juveniles and Young Adults can be viewed online.