Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson is warning Michigan parents about predators grooming students for human trafficking, while kids are at school.
The sheriff told WNEM investigators are looking into multiple reports of adults attempting to lure students through online communications, using compliments, gifts and attention to draw them into off-school meet-ups.
“We have students from the ages of 12 to 18 groomed by people 22 to 59, just in the last week,” Swanson said.
“Hey, you’re beautiful and I want to meet you,” Swanson said, parroting the conversations. “I’d love to take you to dinner. If we meet, I can give you money.”
Swanson would not reveal schools involved in the incident or other information, but confirmed at least one student met up with a predator in Genesee County.
“These people have no good intent,” he said. “They’re there to do one thing and it’s to assault them and sexually abuse them.”
Chia Morgan, spokeswoman for the Trauma Recovery Center of Hurley Medical Center, confirmed the “victimization here and it is real.”
Morgan said the hospital offers resources to people caught up in the trafficking with a wide variety of services.
“We help them whether they need a (personal protection order), whether they need to be relocated, whether they just need someone there to sit and talk to …,” Morgan said.
Swanson told the news site investigators have not yet made any arrests, and urged parents to get engaged in what their children are doing online.
“Human trafficking is the fasted growing criminal enterprise in the world,” he said. “Because of the online ability to connect and to groom and to assault and charge.”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reportedly received more than 6,200 Michigan related contacts involving more than 4,000 victims since 2007. In 2018 alone, the group received 1,038 contacts – phone calls, texts, chats, emails and web forms – involving a reported 383 human trafficking cases.
The vast majority of those cases involved sex trafficking.
Of the Michigan cases reported to the hotline, 269 of the 383 involved female victims. About a quarter of the victims were minors, hotline data shows.
The hotline offers an array of statistics, resources, safety planning, and information on human trafficking, as well as several ways to report a tip.