Fighting Human Trafficking

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(Photos by John Meiu)

PHOTO #1: On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, in partnership with the Oakland County Health Division and Sheriff’s Office, held a press conference to raise awareness about human trafficking in the region and to launch a new county resource website.  On hand for the speaking program at the Board of Commissioners auditorium in Pontiac were (left to right) Commissioners Eileen Kowall and Janet Jackson, Oakland County Health & Human Services Director Kathy Forzley, and Board Vice Chairman Michael Spisz.

PHOTO #2: Also speaking at the event was Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (left) who was welcomed by Board Vice Chairman Michael Spisz.


Commissioners, county partners join forces with law enforcement and other allies

On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Thursday, Jan. 11,  the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, in partnership with the Oakland County Health Division and Sheriff’s Office, held a press conference to raise awareness about human trafficking in the region and to launch a new county resource website. Representatives from across law enforcement, the judicial system, area social service agencies and state and local government were in attendance to show their support for the new initiative and to demonstrate their commitment to the shared fight against human trafficking.

Board Vice Chairman Michael Spisz, along with Commissioners Eileen Kowall and Janet Jackson, hosted the speaking program. All three commissioners serve on the bipartisan Oakland County Human Trafficking Task Force (HTTF). Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard and Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins addressed the issue of human trafficking from a law enforcement perspective. Bouchard emphasized the importance of everyday citizens being educated about the warning signs of human trafficking and the importance of reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement, so that they can investigate and intervene on behalf of victims.

“Continuing to raise awareness around human trafficking is incredibly important for our community,” said Bouchard. “Human trafficking occurs everywhere and we have witnessed many cases in Oakland County. We need to continue to work together and go after these individuals who have no respect for life.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette attended and shared remarks, and Kathy Forzley, director of Oakland County Health & Human Services, presented the new website, which includes vital information about human trafficking in Oakland County. It will serve as a resource for human trafficking victims and their advocates, parents and professionals, and anyone interested in learning more about this serious issue. It features sections on human trafficking facts and data, resources for victims, advocacy, and trainings and webinars, for those interested in learning more about how they can help. The new website was a collaborative effort on behalf of the Oakland County HTTF and its partners, and is now live under the Oakland County Health Division website at www.oakgov.com/humantrafficking.

“I am very proud of the collaborative effort in the creation of this website,” said Commissioner Janet Jackson, minority vice chair of the Oakland County HTTF. “Working together, we created something not political but passionate to help fight this plague. The website will raise awareness and assist survivors, helping the vulnerable in my city and across the county, to better address this crime.”

“We must continue to fight the insidious and widespread threat of human trafficking through any and all means possible,” stated Commissioner Eileen Kowall, majority vice chair of the Oakland County HTTF. “The ruthless predators who commit this terrible crime against men, women and children – stealing their freedom and their lives – cannot be tolerated. We must do everything in our power to rid our communities and the world of this heinous and illegal activity.”

The Board of Commissioners created the Oakland County HTTF in response to the serious threat that human trafficking poses to vulnerable people in Oakland County, and to the safety and health of all its residents.

The bipartisan leadership of the HTTF includes Commissioner Michael Spisz (R-Oxford), Commissioner Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake) and Commissioner Janet Jackson (D-Southfield). The other members include representatives from the Oakland County Health Division, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, Oakland County Youth Assistance, Oakland Schools, CARE House of Oakland County and Common Ground.

The primary objectives of the HTTF are to prevent the crime of human trafficking and protect and rehabilitate victims through education, advocacy and collaboration. For additional information about the Oakland County HTTF, visit www.oakgov.com/boc or call the Board of Commissioners at 248-858-0100.

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