LANSING - "Human trafficking may be closer to you than you think," said Director and Founder of The Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, Jane White.
It may come as a shock but according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Michigan ranks No. 2 in the country for human trafficking in the sex trade.
"The idea that human trafficking victims are living in your neighborhood, right next door to you doesn't cross you mind," said panelist, Sheila Meshinski. "But they do."
Michigan State University's Institute of Public Policy and Social Research put on a Human Trafficking forum: Uncovering the Obscurity of Human Trafficking.
"This is one issue that concerns everyone and kind of brings together some big issues with international migration, with drugs, with prostitution, and obviously, is a real human tragedy as well," said IPPSR's Director, Matt Grossmann.
"We like to understand the scope of the issue but also want to see if there are signals on the ground of actual movement toward solving this problem."
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource center, in 2016 there were 246 human trafficking cases reported in Michigan.
Jane White refers to human trafficking as "modern day slavery."
"They're are many myths that exist about human trafficking," said White. "Most of us would probably say it's sexual exploitation but we know from the limited studies that we have, that labor exploitation has much higher numbers."
Grossmann says, "there does seem to be that there's a sign of it spreading through the state and also involving a greater number of people, both on the criminal enterprise side and on the victim side."
There are some things you can look out for in recognizing a Human Trafficking victims. Victims are often times dehydrated, stressed, and abuse illegal substances.
White says, "it's 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Normality is not even in a definition (to the victims), it is chaos beyond belief."
"We need accountability, we need a strong, strategic leadership and we really need to make sure that public policy is defined on this issue that effects us all," said White. "Success will only come from collaboration."
If you believe you know someone affected by Human Trafficking, you can call and make a report at 888.373.7888.