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MDOT teams up with task force to fight human trafficking along I-94

MDOT teams up with task force to fight human trafficking along I-94.

The fight against human trafficking is growing in Michigan along the Interstate 94 corridor.

The Michigan Department of Transportation teamed up with local organizations to help prevent the crime and Newschannel 3's Franque Thompson has a closer look at the efforts.

Stickers with the National Human Trafficking Hotline will be in every women's bathroom stall and lobby at rest stops across Michigan. Advocates say the rest stops are some of the most common places for human trafficking.

There were 30,918 human trafficking calls reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016.

Cathy Knauf, with the Southwest Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, said, “It's happening in every city in America and every city in Michigan. It's the second largest criminal activity in America.”

The task force has been monitoring the Watervliet rest stop on I-94 for the last two years. The group partnered with the Michigan Abolitionist Project to post the national hotline stickers in the building's bathroom stalls.

Knauf said, “They have little tabs where you can pull off the tab with the hotline number of you want to call about that or if you feel like you're a victim.”

She says the rest stop has seen a 32 percent sticker pull since the campaign started.

MDOT spokesperson Nick Schirripa said, “Two confirmed calls from there and 30 more that they have reason to believe came from that rest area. So, it's working.”

MDOT is getting involved in the campaign against trafficking and Schirripa says all 78 rest stops on I-94 owned by MDOT will have the stickers.

Schirripa said, “If folks are coming into our facilities and breaking the law it's kind of on us to help catch them and help stop that.”

Knauf said, “Victims often don't even understand they are victims, but they do go in the restrooms and when they see that sign repeatedly every time they go into the restroom they may start to think about, 'Maybe I need to call this hotline, maybe I am a victim.’”

MDOT says it will monitor the stickers at 67 stops and local organizations will cover the remaining 17.

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