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Multi-Agency Collaboration Updates Sex Trafficking Report

Analysis of Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and Sex Trafficking in Milwaukee Seeks to Inform Further Responses to Trafficking

MILWAUKEE, Dec. 13, 2018 – In March of 2018, the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission, the Medical College of Wisconsin Institute for Health and Equity, Rethink Resources, Milwaukee Sexual Assault Review, and Milwaukee Police Department – Sensitive Crimes Division released a report estimating the magnitude of sex trafficking in Milwaukee. Today, they will release a supplementary report examining unaccompanied homeless youth and sex trafficking in the city of Milwaukee from Jan. 1, 2013 – Dec. 31, 2016. This project was made possible with funding by the Bob and Linda Davis Family Fund.

“Sex trafficking is a serious issue that impacts all segments of our society. Reports like this help us better understand the challenges of this crime and develop strategies to identify victims, investigate the crime, and connect them to resources,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales.

When youth are absent without leave (AWOL) from an out of home care (OHC) placement (foster homes, group homes, residential care centers, shelter care, and kinship care) they are considered unaccompanied and homeless as they are without adequate stable housing and appropriate adult supervision. This places them in a position of extreme vulnerability to sex trafficking victimization. A review of official Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) incident reports from Jan. 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2016, identified 85 individuals as confirmed or believed to be victims of sex trafficking with a history of being reported as a missing person/AWOL to MPD at least one time while placed in OHC.

The analysis found that the majority of these victims were African American (75 percent or 64 individuals), female (97 percent or 82 individuals), and confirmed victims of sex trafficking (94 percent or 80 individuals). More than half of the sample (51 percent or 43 individuals) was identified in two or more incidents of sex trafficking. The average age of the victim at the time of the trafficking incident was 16 years old. These individuals were reported as missing persons to MPD on 765 occasions, with an average of 9 missing reports per person. When we examined their history of contacts with MPD, 61 percent (52 individuals) were listed as a victim of sexual assault, 24 percent (20 individuals) were listed as a victim of domestic violence, and 33 percent (28 individuals) were listed as victims of child abuse. Seventy-three of the individuals (86 percent) were identified as victims, suspects, or witnesses of other reported incidents with MPD that did not include sex trafficking, sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, drugs, or missing person’s incidents. More than half (55 percent) had an indicator of cumulative trauma identified in an MPD report at age 13 years old or younger.

“We hope this continues to inform current discussions around the issue and furthers our understanding of sex trafficking in Milwaukee, so we are in a better position to respond and prevent it,” said Mallory O’Brien, director of the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission and Assistant Professor in the Institute for Health and Equity at Medical College of Wisconsin.

The analysis takes a public health approach to sex trafficking, including an analysis of victims, circumstances surrounding the trafficking, and historical factors that may have increased the vulnerability of a victim. The recommendations generated in this report were developed in collaboration with the Milwaukee Sexual Assault Review (MSAR), Proactive Outreach for the Health of Sexually Exploited Youth (POHSEY), Collaborative Rapid Advocacy for Youth (CRAY), and various group homes in Milwaukee. This ensured the recommendations address the policy needs of criminal justice, medical, advocacy, and social service systems that come into contact with victims of sex trafficking.

“These recommendations are a great starting point to conversations around this topic. I hope that next we can engage youth in the conversation. Youth can speak to their own experience and provide critical insight about what they would recommend,” said Claudine O’Leary, Independent Consultant with Rethink Resources.

Due to the volume of data collected this is the first in a series of supplements to the first sex trafficking report. Supplemental reports will include additional data analysis, discussion, and recommendations.

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