Rock County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force teaches community warning signs

Presentation at Milton Public Library at 6 p.m.
Rock County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force teaches community warning signs

The Rock County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force is working to provide training to every school district in the county.

The task force is made up of more than 25 representatives from different agencies in the county, including law enforcement, education, health care and nonprofits. The group was formed in September 2017.

Carrie Wyatt, a Spanish teacher at Craig High School and member of the task force, said there have been trafficking cases reported in all 72 counties in Wisconsin.

“We’re raising a lot of awareness about it, but this is absolutely happening everywhere,” Wyatt said. “It’s happening from the most rural to the most urban setting.”

The Rock County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force is holding a special presentation and Q&A session at the @m1ltonl1brary tonight at 6pm. Task force members say there is human trafficking in all 72 counties in Wisconsin #news3 pic.twitter.com/rMdTLtifhz

— Jenna Middaugh (@JennaMiddaugh) April 9, 2018

Rock County is particularly vulnerable because of the interstate, which provides access to Chicago, Madison and Milwaukee, according to Wyatt.

“Milwaukee is known as the ‘Harvard’ of pimp schools,” she said. “Traffickers go to Milwaukee to learn how to run their stables, so it’s something that we just absolutely have to let our youth know of what to look for to help keep them safe, as well as the adults in the community.”

Wyatt said the task force started by talking with the school boards for every district in the county. Then, it held special training sessions so educators would know what warning signs to look for.

“The interest has been amazing,” she said. “It’s a hard topic for people to hear about and to be willing to accept that it is happening, but once you know the warning signs, you see things with a different lens.”

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During the presentations, Wyatt said, people learn where the youth are vulnerable and how. She said the task force teaches participants about the grooming process traffickers use and also what resources are available in the community for help.

Some of the easy warning signs to spot in students are tattoos with a name or barcode, dramatic changes in appearance or clothing and references to older boyfriends.

“Also just a student who is very, very, perhaps, introverted who all of a sudden starts talking about that older person or having a boyfriend,” Wyatt said. “Those vulnerabilities make predators very attracted to that type of youth.”

Susan Probst is the director of student services for the Milton School District. Her student services staff recently received training from the task force.

“We really wanted to get an overview of how this could impact our families and the students that are attending our school,” Probst said. “We really wanted to get a grasp on ‘How can we be proactive?'”

The task force’s goal is to hold trainings for each school district and then have those districts educate their other employees. Eventually, the task force wants to expand the training for students in elementary through high school.

“I really like the idea that they’re actually training students to recognize the signs because I think that’s where we’re going to be able to put a real stop in it is when kids can recognize that their friends are being groomed,” Probst said.

A presentation and Q&A session are scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. at the Milton Public Library. There is also a human trafficking community panel in Clinton on Wednesday and in Edgerton on Thursday.

More information can be found on the Rock County Anti-Human Trafficking website or Facebook page.