The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is putting a spotlight on human trafficking as part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized every year on Jan. 11 with the social media campaign #WearBlueDay.

Human trafficking can involve forced labor or sex trafficking and it happens in communities of all sizes around the world. 

“Human trafficking is a hidden crime that needs to come out of the shadows,” WisDOT Secretary Craig Thompson said in a news release. “Traffickers are using our highway system to transport victims and perpetuate this crime. We are doing everything we can to stop it in Wisconsin.”

It can take a perceptive officer, hotel worker or bystander to notice signs of human trafficking.

All State Patrol officers are trained in recognizing the basic indicators of human trafficking, the questions to ask, and options to help connect a victim with available social services.

“Human trafficking targets vulnerable people, regardless of demographics, so we are committed to doing our part to stop it,” State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell said. “When our officers encounter a potential human trafficking situation, they’re trained to use a victim-centered approach. Our goal is to avoid traumatizing a victim any further.”

Everyone can help stop trafficking by keeping an eye out for indicators. The following could be signs someone is vulnerable:

·         A sudden or dramatic change in behavior

·         Becoming disconnected from family, friends or community organizations

·         Signs of mental or physical abuse, or deprivation of basic needs

·         Indication of being coached on what to say, or not in control of their own decisions

full list is available from the Department of Homeland Security.

If you encounter a situation you suspect is human trafficking, do not approach anyone involved. Gather as much information as possible and contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733. If there is an immediate danger, call 911.

WisDOT is one of hundreds of partners that signed on to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s initiative Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking, to bring the travel industry together to combat this crime across the country.

Watch Wisconsin State Patrol’s Law of the Month video: