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Coronavirus pandemic doesn’t stop human trafficking

‘There are people out there that need help,' Kathy Maitland said

DETROIT – The cruel world of human trafficking has not subsided during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Unfortunately, the conditions have made it easier for predators to find their next target.

“Anytime somebody is vulnerable they have a higher chance of being exploited,” said Chrissy Hemphill, program director of Hope Against Trafficking.

The FBI is well aware of how traffickers are locating victims.

“A lot of the hotels or motels where they would congregate with their clients -- that’s not happening out there anymore because a lot of those have closed down. It’s opening up different avenues of people bringing people into their homes to exploit for trafficking. So, you know, it makes it a little more difficult for us, from a law enforcement perspective," said Steven M D’Antuono, the FBI Special Agent in Charge.

The problems don’t stop there. The survivors who have found support systems have been struggling as well.

Places like Wayne County Safe have been a refuge for so many. Director of Crisis Services and Outreach, Benita Robinson, said quarantine conditions have complicated a lot.

“Us in the field kind of know if a person’s basic needs aren’t being met their ability to come or, you know, deal with violence is sort of, that sort of comes after. It sort of falls as less of a priority,” Robinson said.

Michigan Abolitionist Project, better known as MAP, is devoted to educating and ending human trafficking. Kathy Maitland is their executive director and her concerns are sobering.

“There are people out there that need help, and that’s important. They’re valuable and so I think it does present an opportunity to reach out and move this whole movement (anti-trafficking) forward. To help value people and end exploitation," Maitland said.

Hemphill said the survivors need to know that they haven’t been forgotten and help is still available,.

“We’re still here for people and if you need something, please reach out. If we can’t help you, we will find somebody who can," Hemphill said.

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