We were disappointed when Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul reported that law enforcement agencies are not consistently reporting human trafficking, which is leading to incomplete information and is likely undercounting the number of people who are forced into the sex trade. We believe the problem needs immediate attention.

The attorney general’s conclusion is based on responses from hundreds of Wisconsin law enforcement agencies that responded to a state Department of Justice survey sent in 2019, according to the Associated Press. Kaul told the AP that the report’s public release shows more work needs to be done to improve data collection, raise awareness of the problem and expand support for victims. We couldn’t agree more with the state attorney general.

“There has been a growing recognition that this is a real issue that is happening in communities across the state and needs to be taken seriously,” Kaul told the AP.

Human trafficking is generally defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion to move someone, typically to make them have sex for money.

The goal of the survey was to gather more details about the perceptions, policies and date-entering practices of law enforcement agencies. The results show there’s still room for improvement among police agencies in consistently collecting and recording human trafficking data, Kaul said.

The report found that due to confusion about the legal definition of human trafficking and data entering practices, law enforcement agencies were likely undercounting the number of cases in the state.

Between 2014 and 2017, there were 118 incidents of human trafficking entered in law enforcement records management systems. An additional 139 incidents that were either prostitution or human trafficking were also entered by agencies that don’t differentiate between the two. In 2018 there were 66 human trafficking incidents entered and 35 that were either prostitution or human trafficking.

The state Justice Department’s Human Trafficking Bureau initiated 125 cases, recovered 138 victims and made 105 arrests between September 2017 and December 2019, according to statistics provided by Kaul’s office.

Law enforcement agencies said in the survey that they need more training on how to differentiate between prostitution and sex trafficking. They also expressed a need for more training about child sex trafficking.

It is obvious there is a misunderstanding of the two sex crimes. We think the state Attorney General’s survey will help fix the problem. It is unfortunate that it took so long to uncover the problem. Prostitution and human sex trafficking have been around a long time.