HP Community Coalition to hold talk on human trafficking

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published June 13, 2018

HAZEL PARK — Slavery still exists in the United States. 

Every day, people are bought and sold in secret, used for forced labor and sexual servitude. Hoping to raise awareness, the Hazel Park Community Coalition will hold a talk on human trafficking, inviting guest speakers to talk about the scope of the issue in Michigan and the U.S. 

The speakers will also discuss red flags for identifying survivors and victims, and how to help them. The talk will be held at 6 p.m. June 20 at the Hazel Park Recreation Center, 620 W. Woodward Heights Blvd. The event is organized by the Hazel Park Community Coalition (HPCC), part of Hazel Park Public Schools. The HPCC officially formed in March 2017. 

The human trafficking topic is just one of many in a larger series that will also include talks on substance abuse and prevention, vaping, suicide and mental health at later dates.  

The June 20 event on human trafficking will feature a presentation by professor Elizabeth Campbell, from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. In addition, Hazel Park Police Detective Jane Gielniak will be in attendance, as will a representative from the Michigan Abolitionist Project, a group dedicated to stopping trafficking. 

“Human trafficking and sex trafficking are not subjects that should be taken lightly. These acts occur every day, at every hour, in all walks of life. Trafficking … has no face — it can happen to anyone at any moment, regardless of age, sex and/or race,” said Jared Gajos, executive director of the HPCC. “Through events like the one we will be having, we hope to not only be able to raise more awareness for the subject itself, but to potentially share information that can save lives.” 

Gajos pointed to several statistics that illustrate the severity of trafficking.

According to the Human Trafficking Hotline, the number of cases reported in a single year in Michigan increased from 69 in 2012 to 305 in 2017. Michigan has the sixth-highest number of reported human trafficking cases in the country.

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, of which 81 percent are trapped in forced labor; 25 percent are children; and 75 percent are women and girls. 

“I hope attendees really listen to how this topic affects them, how they can help the fight against trafficking, as well as the things to look for that may indicate trafficking,” Gajos said.

Hazel Park Public Schools Superintendent Amy Kruppe, who serves as president of the HPCC board, said this is just the latest way the group is helping to educate the community on important topics.

“The coalition continues to bring awareness to the community on important topics to both students and adults — topics like opioids, marijuana usage, safe proms, cigarette usage, and now human trafficking,” Kruppe said. “We look forward to upcoming events next year on a monthly basis. How fortunate we are to have this in our community.”