Authorities say human trafficking has become the second-biggest and second-fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, behind drug trafficking, says the Detroit Free Press. In recent years, the number of cases has skyrocketed — from 300 in 2008 to 2,515 in 2010. Those are only the ones known. Too often, officials say, victims stay silent out of fear.
President Obama declared January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Of the 2,515 cases in 2010, more than 1,000 involved children. The United Nations estimates it’s a $32-billion industry, with half of the money coming from industrialized countries. Michigan cases have included children sold for sex at truck stops; servants held in captivity and forced to clean for free, and women forced into the sex industry, forfeiting their earnings. Many victims are afraid to speak out and stay in hiding. “The victims usually fear that they have nowhere to turn to, so it’s a largely underreported crime,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.