Nessel discusses human trafficking in UP | News, Sports, Jobs

Noah Johnson | Daily Press State Attorney General Dana Nessel laughs with District Governor Gretchen Preston of the Marquette Lions Club.

MANISTIQUE — On Friday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined the UPHTTF Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force for a roundtable discussion. The event took place at Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital. The purpose was to discuss the state of human trafficking in the UP, including the state's goals regarding human trafficking, and identify solutions that best serve the community and retain human traffickers. responsible for their actions.

More than 25 representatives and community leaders from various organizations were in attendance. Participants included the Lions Club, Michigan State Police, Delta County Sheriff's Office, victim services centers and representatives from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

District Governor Gretchen Preston of the Marquette Lions Club said it is important to discuss the information shared, especially with loved ones.

“Take this home, tell your family, tell your friends – together we can beat this,” Preston said.

Almost everyone said they would like to see more education and training provided to their organizations so they can help stop trafficking where possible, protect the victim and hold the offender accountable.

The informal discussion focused on three essential pillars of the fight against human trafficking: prevention, protection and prosecution.

Prevention involves stopping an act before it happens, by looking for signs or clues that a person might be involved in human trafficking. There are different indicators, but a very common method according to UPHTTF is isolation. Predators use isolation as a way to control the victim and deprive them of their sense of belonging to a community. The UPHTTF said the best way to help is to care.

“Be careful about the people you know or interact with: your children, your students, your tenants, your co-workers. If their friends, daily schedule, clothing, or personality changes, speak with them immediately to find out why,” the UPHTTF said in materials provided to participants.

Protection refers to the victim's well-being, ensuring that they feel safe enough to share traumatic information that allows law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue the offender.

Finally, there are lawsuits, which use the law to hold offenders accountable for their actions.

Nessel expanded on the pillars of protection and prosecution, saying victims must feel comfortable enough to work with law enforcement.

“It's very difficult to prosecute these cases because it's very difficult to get cooperation from the victims,” Nessel said.

She added that this means the victim needs proper treatment and care, whether that is medical care, mental health care or substance abuse treatment.

“There is no way to get their cooperation until they feel like they can completely distance themselves from the trafficker and are mentally prepared to participate in prosecution,” Nessell added.

Unfortunately, UP is a vulnerable area when it comes to human trafficking. According to the UPHTTF, the region is vulnerable due to high poverty rates, substance abuse, lack of mental health services, five tribal nations, shipping channels, cargo ports as well as proximity to the northern border. Human traffickers typically search online for vulnerable victims – especially children – and begin the grooming process.

Graef said those who need it or have questions about human trafficking can visit the website at or call the administration/counseling line at 906-299-9243.

Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital CEO Andy Bertapelle spoke about organizing the event, saying he immediately said yes when asked.

“It made perfect sense to have the community here because they play a vital role,” Bertapelle said.

Nessel reflected on the discussion, saying it's important for these different organizations and groups to work together.

“I think it was an extraordinary discussion,” Nessel said. “There’s a real need to bring together as many different partnerships (from) all over the Upper Peninsula.”

She said it's important for state officials like her to come talk to local communities and show them the resources the state has.

Graef said she was happy that so many community members were able to attend.

“I was really encouraged by the participation of Schoolcraft County leaders and, of course, UP leaders who all came together in a coalition to recognize, first, that human trafficking is a very real problem here in UP, and also, secondly, what they can do in this area. their ability to help combat it,” Graef said.

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