January 16, 2019

Seminar to raise awareness about human trafficking


STANDISH — A free seminar at the Standish-Sterling Central High School auditorium April 12 will aim to make attendees aware of the severity of human trafficking in Michigan, while also providing them with ways to identify potential trafficking situations.

Organized by Arenac County Crime Victim Advocate Noreen Plachta, the seminar is open to the public and scheduled to run from 6-9 p.m. Guest speakers will include Genesee County Prosecutor Jennifer Janetsky and a member of the state’s human trafficking task force, Stephanie Krieger. Plachta said as a result of bringing together experts on the subject and the community, more people can take up the mantle of protecting victims or potential victims.

“This emphasizes the importance of inclusion in victim services,” she said. “By involving our community, we can promote public awareness about issues such as human trafficking, so that we can help victims and fight these crimes.”

Janetsky said Michigan’s rate of human trafficking crimes is higher than the national average. She said sharing a maritime border with a different country and being on the I-75 corridor likely contribute to the crime. If more people are aware of what to look for, Janetsky said it could lead to more human trafficking convictions and curb the crime.

“Raising awareness within each individual community is the key to prosecution,” she said. “It’s the key to detection.”

Krieger said people often see something they feel is out of place, but turn the other way. They might see a young person traveling with an older person and acting strangely around them, but instead of keeping an eye on the situation for a few minutes, will turn away. Krieger said people should trust their gut when it comes to a potential human trafficking incident.

“The number-one type of tips that we receive are from community members,” she said. “They’re the eyes and ears of the community. If the community isn’t aware, how then can it get to 911 and the police officers and up the justice system?”

Plachta said just because Arenac County is a small, rural area, people shouldn’t think human trafficking couldn’t happen there.

“Sometimes the smaller communities think they’re far enough away from these types of things that they don’t have to worry about them,” she said. “Yet we’re finding out it is all over. In order to protect our kids and our communities, we need to become aware in order to fight these crimes.”

No matter the size of a community, the internet gives people the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere, Janetsky said.

“Even though the community is smaller, our kids communicate in ways that are national and international,” she said. “They’re not limited to the people they meet here anywhere.”

“They’re talking to people from around the world,” Janetsky said. “And they’re talking to people they think are teenagers and they’re not.”

Krieger said a survey of human trafficking survivors showed that 75 percent of trafficking instances started with communications via some sort of social media. Online conversations aren’t the only common thread in trafficking instances, Krieger said.

“Where there are drugs, there is trafficking,” she said.

“In the cases we’ve worked in Genesee County, they’re always hand in hand,” Janetsky added.

Plachta said she hopes the seminar isn’t the last event in Arenac County centered around human trafficking awareness.

“We’re hoping that by doing this it’s going to spark off other educational events,” she said.

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Magician to offer spring break staycation fun

ARENAC COUNTY — Libraries in Au Gres and Standish will welcome Alan Kazam Tuesday, April 3, for this year’s annual spring break staycation entertainment.

Iosco-Arenac District Library Children and Teen Services Coordinator Lynne Bigelow said the show is scheduled to begin at 11:15 a.m. at the Mary Johnston Memorial Library in Standish and at 2 p.m. at the Au Gres Community Library. Bigelow said Alan Kazam’s shows have been popular at Iosco-Arenac library branches in the past.

“He does a lot of fun magic,” she said. “He’s a lot of fun and he works in a lot of audience participation.”

Bigelow said the district library holds events every year during spring break to give people who don’t travel a chance to have some family-friendly fun.

“It’s something to get people out of the house,” she said. “There’s no cost and you can bring the whole family.”

For more information on the show, call the Iosco-Arenac District Library at 989-362-2651.

The Au Gres Community Library is located at 230 N. Mackinaw Rd. The Mary Johnston Memorial Library is located at 114 N. Court St. in Standish.


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