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Rescued teen case draws attention to warning signs of human trafficking

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Posted at 11:00 AM, Mar 11, 2024

MILWAUKEE — A 17-year-old girl is safe from what the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office believes was a possible human trafficking case.

Authorities said the girl was found in a car with two adults during a traffic stop. The teen said that the driver ordered her into his car and forced her to engage in a sex act.

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"Took her to a residence. Later, told her she would be sent out of state for prostitution purposes," said Detective Jo Donner with the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office. "It just seemed an unusual situation within the vehicle."

Detective Donner explained that timing and interview skills were key in rescuing the girl.

We asked how often law enforcement locates possible trafficking victims.

"It's uncommon just because this is a crime that works in the shadows. The perpetrators are really good at hiding their crime and their victims," Detective Donner stated.

It does not always take trained law enforcement to spot red flags someone is being trafficked.

Warning signs may include seeing someone being controlled and constantly monitored, someone with several hotel keys or speech that seems scripted.

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Signs advertising the National Human Trafficking Hotline are posted in Kwik Trip bathrooms as part of a partnership with the Wisconsin State Patrol.

Kwik Trip released the following statement.

"In collaboration with the Wisconsin State Patrol’s initiative for Human Trafficking, Kwik Trip Inc. received information describing what Human Trafficking may look like and added that information to our Emergency Procedures Packet.

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If our coworkers suspect someone is being trafficked, they are encouraged to make as many observations as possible and notify the police.

Part of Kwik Trip’s mission is to make a difference in someone’s life. If we can be an extra pair of eyes to help or aid in stopping Human Trafficking happening, our coworkers have the tools to make that decision.

Our coworkers are servant leaders and do their best to help when someone is in need."

We asked Donner if she thinks these efforts like the ads make a difference.

"I think they do. I think they do. I think it may not be the first time that somebody a victim passes it that thinks about calling," Donner responded.

After working on these types of cases for years, Donner believes it is important to know that victims come from all backgrounds.

"It can be anybody. I have encountered girls from small towns up north to women who are very well-off and middle-aged. It can happen to anybody," Donner said.

MCSO says another resource is a free phone app called Atlas 1. You can submit tips to your local law enforcement agency.

If you are a victim of human trafficking call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.

You can also text "BeFree" to that number or chat live with someone at www.humantraffickinghotline.org.