Report: Milwaukee is center for sex trafficking - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Report: Milwaukee is center for sex trafficking

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Milwaukee (WISN) -- Milwaukee is a hub for sex trafficking, according to a first-of-its-kind report.

The report covers four years from 2013 to 2016, in an attempt to get an idea of the magnitude of sex trafficking. It finds a mostly steady yearly increase, totaling some 340 people under 26 who've been sex trafficked in the city of Milwaukee.

It's an age-old problem that's perhaps been made worse in the modern age of connectivity and access.

"Identify the problem. I think that's the first step to coming to a solution," Mayor Tom Barrett said.

The report by the city and the Medical College of Wisconsin showed 97 percent of the victims are women, 65 percent of them are African-American and 55 percent are between the ages of 14 and 17.

The study found that many are trafficked through ads on Backpage, which is now now a focus for law enforcement agencies.

A recent case is typical of the child sex trafficking cases: A 17-year-old girl waiting for the bus at 27th and Burleigh streets was approached by a man who told her she should be a model. Within a few weeks, she was working for him as a prostitute.

She was living at a group home, which is a common element among sex trafficking victims, with 59 percent of victims had been reported missing from group or foster homes.

"Any time you've got an out-of-home placement, there has to be appropriate training to make sure that you are spotting what are the signs of a young woman or girl who is really going to be trapped in this," Barrett said.

Among the recommendations made in the report are specialized safe homes to "'un-brainwash' victims by addressing the manipulation and trauma they endured."

"We've known for several years that Milwaukee has been named as a city where this is an issue. So, I think the worst thing we can do is to make believe it's not an issue when it is an issue," Barrett said.

The report is meant to establish a baseline to see if future efforts to reduce sex trafficking are working.

The report suggests creating sex trafficking awareness education in schools, with a program similar to the recommendations focuses on the classroom just like there are prevention programs now in schools now for drugs, high-risk sexual activity, suicide, and and bullying.

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