KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A West Michigan coalition raising awareness about human trafficking is celebrating 10 years.
It started up back in February 2012.
In Michigan in 2020, 295 human trafficking cases were reported and 845 people reached out for help, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
A Kalamazoo coalition said it's still a widespread problem.
"It has just been an incredible opportunity to bridge the community together over an issue that is very serious and tragic, and one that people still don’t believe happens," said Kalamazoo Area Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition Founder Sara Morley LaCroix.
Reporter: "Is human trafficking happening in Kalamazoo?"
Sara Morley LaCroix: "Absolutely, absolutely. I could cry. When I talk about it or think about it."
Sara Morley LaCroix, the founder for the Kalamazoo Area Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition, said she started researching human trafficking back in 2009.
She even reached out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline wiith questions.
"When I called there to see what resources were in Kalamazoo, I was told there was none. I just found that unacceptable that we could go Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, South Bend, Chicago, but nothing was in Kalamazoo. From there, I was like, 'I’m going to do something,'" said Morley LaCroix.
She started up the coalition in February 2012, and since then, they've come a long way.
"To be doing this at 10 years and to think of all the people that we have trained, raised awareness, other programs that have been implemented, other coalitions or organizations... There are other people who have organized similar organizations throughout the state. It is just amazing," said Morley LaCroix.
The coalition helped form the Kalamazoo County Human Trafficking Task Force, as well as the YWCA's Human Trafficking program that offers legal counsel, therapy and even shelter.
KAAHTC also has a billboard campaign put up throughout the city every January, and beyond that, they've grown their board to include four survivors of human trafficking.
Morley LaCroix said there is still so much more to be done.
"Our law enforcement is still not required to be trained on human trafficking," said Morley LaCroix. Our educators are not. There's only two professionals in the state of Michigan that requires law for licensing, and that's medical providers and social workers, and they both require one hour of training. Do I think awareness has been raised? Yes. Do I think much is being done about it to prevent it? No."
To celebrate 10 years, the coalition will be hosting two events in hopes to continue raising awareness.
- Slavery Then and Now Discussion & Experiences of Two People Who Were Human Trafficked in Michigan
- Thursday, March 10, 2022 from 5:30–8 p.m.
- Life Changing Ministries at 3932 E Kilgore Road, Portage, Michigan 49002
- A light supper will be served at 5:30 p.m. with the program starting at 6 p.m.
- The event will also be livestreamed on the Life Changing Ministries’ Facebook Page.
- Book Signing & Excerpt Reading from Author and Advocate Leslie King of Sacred Beginnings
- 'When Angels Fight' by Leslie King
- Wednesday, March 31, 2022 from 11:30–1:30 p.m.
- Ladies Library Association, 333 S Park Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007
- Free event
- Books available for purchase for $20 during the book signing
- Light refreshments will be served
KAAHTC has hosted over 300 events in their time in the Kalamazoo area. You can learn more about their events and how you can get involved by visiting www.KAHTC.org or following them on Facebook.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked through force, fraud, or coercion, or if they need assistance, please call the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “help” or “info” to 233733.