SHEBOYGAN COUNTY, Wis. — A human trafficking sting led to a half dozen arrests in Sheboygan County, authorities announced Wednesday. Sex trafficking advocates warn when there is a major event underway, that’s when they usually see an increase in demand.
Emmy Myers has made it her mission to help other men and woman like her.
“I was trafficked throughout the U.S. Obviously, major events were important,” said Myers.
She founded Lacey’s Hope Project, which helps people trapped in sex trafficking. She knows first hand how human traffickers operate.
“Often these traffickers will travel from city to city to specifically follow large events. Because when you have a large event, that means more money, more demand,” said Myers.
In 2017, Myers along with other advocacy groups gathered in downtown Milwaukee ahead of the US Open at Erin Hills holding signs saying “Don’t Be Quiet” and running ads warning of sex trafficking during that major golf event. The goal was to let people know sex trafficking demand rises when big events occur.
“If you have more people gathering in an area, there is ultimately more demand, more need for workers. More men or woman gathered in an area who have the potential to purchase a victim,” said Myers.
On Monday, Sheboygan County ran an undercover operation targeting human trafficking. They arrested six men, five from Wisconsin and one from out of state.
“We just try and be proactive, and certainly Ryder Cup is in town, but we have a large law enforcement presence and we expect that all the visitors who are coming to our community are here to enjoy our community and not engage in this type of behavior,” said Joel Urmanski, Sheboygan County District Attorney.
When it comes to human trafficking cases for the country, the FBI ranks Wisconsin 5th in offenses.
And it is big business. Sex trafficking is a $150-billion-a-year global industry according to Polaris Project, a non-profit that runs the national human-trafficking hotline.
It is why Sheboygan County has a team of people from different law enforcement agencies, including the county and the state, working to stop people from buying sex.
Emmy Myers pointed out just because you don’t see sex trafficking where you live, don’t assume it is not happening.
“For our state specifically, sex trafficking cases have been recorded in all 72 counties of Wisconsin,” said Myers. "I think that is why it is so crucial for people to realize this is not just an inner city problem - this is happening in our suburbs and we need to become educated, especially with this event coming to Kohler, Wisconsin. Kohler is not exempt from this.”
If you or someone you know needs help, they can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888, or text the word "HELP" to 233733.