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Inaccurate reporting on human trafficking cases, DOJ survey finds

MADISON (WKOW) -- Law enforcement agencies across the state are not always properly reporting the number of human trafficking cases, which Wisconsin’s Department of Justice said is leading to inaccurate data on how many incidents are reported each year.

The results are based on hundreds of law enforcement agencies responding to a survey conducted by the DOJ in 2019. The report found agencies don’t have a universal system when filing incidents of human trafficking as some departments combine trafficking with prostitution -- or some can't tell the difference between the two. Attorney General Josh Kaul said this leads to incomplete, inaccurate data.

“There has been a growing recognition that this is a real issue that is happening in communities across the state and needs to be taken seriously,” Kaul said. “It’s a crime we need to keep working to address.”

The survey asked for details on how law enforcement uses its policies, procedures and data practices. 

It was distributed in two parts, one sent to a chief or sheriff at each agency asking for their participation, another included questions regarding enforcement procedures for prostitution and solicitation, policies regarding differentiating between sex trafficking and prostitution.

Out of the 305 agency responses, 228 were Police Departments, 63 were county Sheriff’s Departments, 4 were Tribal agencies, and 10 were University Police Departments.  

Kaul said cases like these need to be properly handled and want to improve how agencies collect data. He’s also asking for additional awareness of the problem and expand support for victims.

"There's room to improve . . . and there's also clearly a need for more training on human trafficking so that we can make sure that law enforcement agencies are appropriately distinguishing between cases in which they're encountering crimes of prostitution versus cases where what they are actually seeing is human trafficking," he said.

Some law enforcement agencies said in the survey they want more training on how to differentiate between prostitution and sex trafficking, some even expressing the need for more training on child trafficking as well. 

A list of agencies that participated in the survey is available here.


Dani Smith

News Producer

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