DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (FOX 2) - Visa Maria expanding services to help more human trafficking victims
Human trafficking often targets underage girls, forced to sell their bodies for sex. An estimated 200,000 children every day in the U.S. are affected, including right here in Michigan.
"We have intelligence that identified 1,200 females being sex trafficked here in southeast Michigan," said Angela Aufdemberge, Vista Maria president and CEO.
That's why Vista Maria is expanding its services to help more victims, raising millions of dollars in them restore campaign for a new stabilization treatment center. On this International Human Trafficking Awareness Day, it's a chance to talk about the severity of the problem.
"There is a significant threat within in our area. Our operations intelligence estimate there are about 35 children that are being trafficked in the tri-county area of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne on any given day," said Michael Glennon, Detroit FBI.
Glennon, a special agent with the FBI, said last year alone the Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes Task Force rescued 239 child victims of exploitation and made 269 arrests. The task force is currently working 121 federal cases just in this area.
With the North American International Auto Show about to get underway, the FBI said human trafficking will spike significantly, putting more people and more children at risk.
"It varies 180 to 240 percent increase over that period of time as far as sex traffickers that are within the southeast Michigan area," Glennon said.
Glennon said 10 percent of sex workers are under the age of 18 and that with technology, the face of human trafficking has gone from the streets to the screen, not just places like Backpage.com and CraigsList, but vulnerable kids are being targeted on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram as well.
"Our children are significantly more at risk in their own homes - right there in front of their parents with their cell phones or tablets in their hands," he said.
All the more reason for parents to be aware.