Van Hollen pledges to make child trafficking No. 1 priority

2012-12-30T20:14:00Z 2012-12-30T20:16:21Z Van Hollen pledges to make child trafficking No. 1 priorityMARY SPICUZZA | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6122

The average age of a child first forced into the sex slave trade in the U.S. is 13, according to the state Department of Justice. And some children are just infants or toddlers when they are first exploited by sex traffickers.

“When I think of (this happening to) an infant or toddler, it is not just disgusting, it’s the worst form of torture I can imagine,” Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said. “It makes me angry.”

In the coming year, Van Hollen hopes to crack down on sex trafficking of children by hiring special agents and analysts to investigate these crimes and work with lawmakers to draft human trafficking-related legislation, and by holding more training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim and witness coordinators.

Van Hollen asked for more than $900,000 as part of his two-year budget request for the state Department of Justice, which was submitted to Gov. Scott Walker in September. That money would be used to hire five full-time employees, including three special agents and two criminal analysts, who would specifically work to fight child sex trafficking.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor’s office is reviewing Van Hollen’s budget request.

Dana Brueck, spokeswoman for Van Hollen, said the DOJ has no statistics to illustrate the scope of the problem in

Wisconsin but said “it would be naive to conclude that there wasn’t trafficking happening in Wisconsin.” She said the crime takes place throughout the state.

Wisconsin already has an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which has been administered through the state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation since it was created in 1999. So far, 181 local law enforcement agencies have become part of the task force.

But the task force needs to augment its current work to prevent, investigate and prosecute child sex trafficking, according to the DOJ’s budget request.

“Right now we have people working on it, but it’s taking them away from child pornography cases,” Van Hollen said in an interview.

He said the additional staff members would help the DOJ be more aggressive in going after child traffickers, adding the analysts would assist in investigating and prosecuting cases by tracking things like Internet usage, hotel rentals, texts and cellphone usage.

Van Hollen said he also hopes to raise awareness of the problem.

He said some people mistakenly believe these children are “bad kids,” or they are being trafficked “of their own choice,” pointing out that they are too young to consent.

“This is not something they’re doing willingly,” he said. “These children are being exploited.”

Van Hollen, who will become president of the National Association of Attorneys General next summer, will in the fall host a summit where he plans to highlight child trafficking and other topics.

“What I appreciate from the attorney general was that he said human trafficking was going to be a priority and he has followed it up,” said JoAnn Gruber-Hagen, the chairwoman of SlaveFree Madison, a coalition that works to raise awareness of trafficking and efforts to combat it.

A local group, the Dane County Coordinated Community Response to the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, is also working to bring together law enforcement, prosecutors, schools, and service providers to combat trafficking of children, she said.

“It’s a very hidden crime,” Gruber-Hagen said. “It isn’t easy to investigate.”

It is estimated that as many as 27 million women, children and men around the world are victims of human trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Claudine O’Leary, a Milwaukee-based consultant who works with about a dozen agencies to combat trafficking said “there’s quite a long way to go” in changing perceptions of young people being trafficked and raising awareness of the problem.

She said an additional $912,000 for the DOJ will likely help law enforcement efforts, but she would like to see more money spent in other areas that could help young people being exploited by traffickers.

“I’d like to see an equal amount of money put toward their resource needs, like housing, jobs, supportive services, group support and individual support,” O’Leary said.

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(26) Comments

  1. muskie999
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    muskie999 - January 01, 2013 9:25 am
    Ok whats the angle is this idiot is going for. whats he covering up? Child trafficking in WI. That is a top priority? Get real JB, you and the Scooter and Fitz Nazi's must have some strong weed your smoking. IDIOTS!
  2. jimatmadison
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    jimatmadison - January 01, 2013 5:46 am
    What an incredibly dumb comment, RS. Considering the mental processes required to come up with something like that, I'll bet you have a lot more in you, too.
  3. jimatmadison
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    jimatmadison - January 01, 2013 5:41 am
    AG VanPhotoOp's #1 priority always was and always will be voter suppression.

    He'll just drag this out when he's looking for something shiny to distract the media.
  4. Oscar
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    Oscar - December 31, 2012 6:13 pm
    Gee, government corruption didn't make his list... Wouldn't trafficking of foreign kids be best handled by border states or even port areas? Making it his top priority only brought out a request for $900,000. Who is he trying to kid? Please vote out this corrupt, unethical and sleazy individual.
  5. Tricolor Dog
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    Tricolor Dog - December 31, 2012 4:23 pm
    What are you smoking? Those two ALEC tools haven't done you any favors, skippy.
  6. persia
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    persia - December 31, 2012 12:53 pm
    Is he for or against it?
  7. Beingbucky
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    Beingbucky - December 31, 2012 9:17 am
    I want Richard123 to post again and go for the hat trick--three dumbest posts on the same board.
  8. DaneCounty
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    DaneCounty - December 31, 2012 8:53 am
    Richard123 - I doubt you ever took the time to actually go check on the "damage" to the capital. I too was alarmed when I heard about the millions in damage and the threat of balconies collapsing under the weight of protesters. I went to the capital and witnessed normal Wisconsin neighbors conducting themselves very respectfully. It was not shameful. Walker's privatized cleaning crew have done more permanent damage to the capital than the protesters ever did.
  9. dakref
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    dakref - December 31, 2012 8:06 am
    Sux, always looking for an opportunity to slam liberals. Typical mental midget teabagger comment.
  10. BananaSplitz
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    BananaSplitz - December 31, 2012 7:54 am
    Did you personally go and view the pig-sty mess you claim was left? You probably still believe it took millions to clean up, too.
  11. BananaSplitz
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    BananaSplitz - December 31, 2012 7:52 am
    That occurs to me, too.
  12. RecessionSux
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    RecessionSux - December 31, 2012 7:28 am
    Liberals will no doubt not be amused at the children's rights to be trafficked suppressed.
  13. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - December 31, 2012 4:41 am
    Just to be clear, that was former Walker aide Tim Russell you meant, right?
  14. onwisconsin1
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    onwisconsin1 - December 31, 2012 1:43 am
    FINALLY- it only took 2 YEARS for this manipulated top cop to make something non-political his top priority. I'm sure the neo-cons of white flight Milwaukee are circulating recall petitions right now, upset that gerrymandering, photo ID, and collective bargaining right suppression aren't at the top of the list instead.

    This is a serious issue though. As someone who has worked at a shelter for homeless teens and seen them disappear through these cracks, I truly believe in my heart that the rich and powerful as a whole do not care about the poor and defenseless. At least this one is posturing himself to show that republicans care about poor defenseless children. You have to give him that. I still DO NOT believe the current administration gives a damn about the poor and defenseless they like to call them, "the 47%." I'm pretty sure there's going to be a Tea Pansy movement against this because it's 'big government' trying to regulate a business, lol.
  15. Tricolor Dog
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    Tricolor Dog - December 31, 2012 1:10 am
    Pretty funny considering Van Hollen didn't want to assist the Milwaukee County DA or the Feds in the John Doe investigation that yielded at least one child molester. I'm sure JB knew all about Pierick and Russell's little dalliances. After all, they were pals along with Scooter from way back.
  16. algernon
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    algernon - December 30, 2012 11:57 pm
    Highest priority....Highest priority. If you read the article Billie you will see it isn't about exploitation. Kids get knocked around every day in this state and are exploited in many ways that are brutal and criminal and those cases are prosecuted throughout the state as they occur. The article is saying that our Attorney General's highest priority is sex trafficing. We aren't Thailand, or India where this problem is widespread. Where children are trafficed by family or strangers to bring money into the family. Like I said, while there can be isolated occurances within the state which are tragic, there are far more important things our partisan AG can be looking into. Again focusing on issues like this is why the Republicans can't get elected unless they rig the game.
  17. koala
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    koala - December 30, 2012 11:52 pm
    Damn. I thought Van Hollen's top priority was voter suppression. Of course, this is a comment buried in a story during the holiday break. Useful to quote later, but of no real significance.

    On a serious note: child sex trafficking is absolutely terrible. But, seriously folks, most people would argue that alcohol abuse and resulting deaths, domestic violence, and associated crime would be far more important (if less universally loved) goals for Van Hollen to embrace. What's happened to drunk driving during his administration? Bupkis.
  18. nan3
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    nan3 - December 30, 2012 11:24 pm
    I thought his priority was to arm all the school employees-Oh, wait, that was last week.
  19. Richard123
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    Richard123 - December 30, 2012 11:19 pm
    The anti-Walker protests and recall effort were a huge distraction from real problems facing our state, not to mention the costs involved. The costs of cleaning up the pig-sty mess left in the capitol building by the disrespectful and selfish protestors should have resulted in fines and prosecution. It was the most shameful display of "citizenship" I've ever witnessed! That's criminal.
  20. Robert James
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    Robert James - December 30, 2012 11:07 pm
    I am curious about how prevalent this issue is here in Wisconsin. While the problem is real, and does indeed deserve attention, I question this being the top priority of the WI State AG. Surely there are other issues more immediately pressing to our state citizens?
  21. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - December 30, 2012 10:01 pm
    Well, if you're going to pick despicable, loathsome crimes to put up at #1, it's hard to imagine a better candidate than this. But I would've been a lot happier to see a sidebar article saying "And you know what else? I'm going to make enforcement of the anti-marijuana laws Priority #4,796!" All told, given the relative volume of people involved, those LAWS have probably created 10 times the human misery of child trafficking.
  22. Billie
    Report Abuse
    Billie - December 30, 2012 10:01 pm
    So thats 450k a year. Hmmmm, algernon, how many chidlren does it take to be exploited before its worth it to you? 50? 100? perhaps 1000? Fact is, there have been about a dozen high profile cases here in Dane County in the last few years. Is that enough to spend 450K per year? I would bet for every cast that gets reported there is more than one that doesn't. It appears its you that shoulkd get your head our of your arse.
  23. array1
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    array1 - December 30, 2012 9:57 pm
    1 million tax payer dollars to create 5 State jobs? Where's the outrage walker supporters??
  24. Beingbucky
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    Beingbucky - December 30, 2012 9:33 pm
    Tough on crime--unless the perp is a Walker campaign supporter or former staffer.
  25. algernon
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    algernon - December 30, 2012 9:31 pm
    Let me get this right Richard...You and the clowns believe that the worst thing effecting the children of Wisconsin is sex trafficing? How many of your kids friends know children involved in this. Have you been touched by trafficing? Are we talking a pandemic here in the state? How large of a problem do you believe this is in Wisconsin? More than hunger or homelessness, more than lack of health insurance, falling education standards, unemployed parents with termination of unemployment insurance? How bout your friends the republicans start to work on these problems that we all genuinely feel. Wow I better see if I can still get a Swine flu vaccine. Its no wonder you kids can't win an election fairly with priorities like this.
  26. Richard123
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    Richard123 - December 30, 2012 8:57 pm
    Thank you, Mr. Van Hollen. You and Governor Walker are truly great leaders. I hope the malcontents who distracted us from such important work such as this because of their selfish and wasteful recall effort, will now realize how important it is to focus on the greater good of our State.

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