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Community leaders raise awareness of sex trafficking in West Michigan

Posted at 10:52 PM, Jan 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-14 22:52:11-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Experts and law enforcement came together on Tuesday night to raise awareness about sex trafficking happening around West Michigan.

The event, held at the Kroc Center, was held with January being declared 'National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.'

Nationwide 20.9 million victims worldwide are trafficked, according to the Polaris Project. 80% are females who are trafficked across borders.

Community leaders want everyone the warning signs: physical abuse, sexualized behavior, overly tired, brags about having money, and having an older boyfriend.

"Towards the end of 2019, we had a pretty significant case that we investigated without going into details," said Chief Payne with the Grand Rapids Police Department. "It’s things that people don’t know about, but it is occurring in our community."

Law enforcement says in many cases, they cannot prosecute due to victims becoming uncooperative with investigations.

The panel of experts at the event also explained how the rise of the internet has allowed traffickers to groom victims without them ever leaving their home. They warn parents to know the warning signs if they see it happening to their children.