RACINE COUNTY — With the Foxconn deal signed, many are bracing for the impact the Taiwanese manufacturer’s arrival will have on the area.
One of the concerns recently raised by Mayor Cory Mason was the possible increase in human trafficking that may go along with the population boom Foxconn promises to bring.
“One of the things that was raised is there’s probably going to be a spike in human trafficking with that many people coming to the area,” Mason said during a meeting with The Journal Times. “What’s our plan to address that?”
According to Karri Hemmig, a member of the Racine Police Department’s Human Trafficking Task Force and co-founder and executive director of Fight to End Exploitation, a local anti-trafficking group bringing awareness and educating the public about trafficking, the issue is being proactively discussed.
“As with any event or project that involves a lot of men coming together, the Foxconn project could increase human trafficking,” Hemmig said. “Add on the location next to the interstate, I do believe we will see a rise in sexual exploitation.”
Racine Police Chief Art Howell, another member of the task force, believes Foxconn’s arrival forces local officials to look at the potential issues that a large manufacturer’s arrival will bring to the area.
“As our community grows exponentially, we will have a large workforce of construction workers and other employees who will likely live, work and play in our community,” Howell said.
Fight for I-94
This past summer, Fight to End Exploitation launched The I-94 Project, an anti-human trafficking campaign aiming to bring awareness and educate the public about human trafficking, particularly to those passing along Interstate 94 from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The collaboration among various organizations, agencies and community members across southeastern Wisconsin targeted the I-94 corridor between Illinois and Milwaukee, the area where Foxconn will eventually reside.
Hemmig said about 4,000 posters showing four different types of human trafficking scenarios were printed and distributed in the area during the campaign. The billboard campaign, which took place from June 26-Aug. 20, reportedly reached more than 7 million travelers along I-94.
With Foxconn’s arrival, Racine County will become even more of a thoroughfare, creating concern about the rise of trafficking in the area.
Community changes discussed
Chief Howell said Mason has been proactive, holding weekly meetings with department heads since taking office to discuss the broader regional impact that will be felt as a result of Foxconn.
“These are all things that we need to prepare for and think about,” Mason said.
Howell said looking at other areas that have grown in a short period of time is key to preparing and dealing with the impact Foxconn will have on the area.
“From a public safety perspective, our local law enforcement agencies must be prepared to partner across jurisdictional lines in a strategic manner to ensure we are positioned to meet the changing needs of the community,” Howell said.
Hemmig said Fight to End Exploitation and the task force are currently developing relationships and training hotel staff along I-94 to spot trafficking and how to seek help.
“We are constantly assessing changing dynamics in southeastern Wisconsin and what impact they will have on human trafficking,” Hemmig said. “This project will definitely play into any future development of education, awareness, recovery efforts and buyer disruption tactics that we execute.”
“The changes are coming,” Mason said. “The more we’re prepared, I think, the more likely our community is to succeed.”