by DREW HOWARD
The Oakland County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF) is launching a new website that will serve as the go-to source for resources and information concerning human trafficking.
The website will be unveiled today (Thursday, January 11) during a press conference at the Commissioners Auditorium in Pontiac, with a variety of Oakland County departments and organizations expected to be in attendance.
Oakland County Board of Commissioners (BOC) Vice Chairman Michael Spisz, who also chairs the OCHTTF, said the website is the task force’s first major milestone.
“This is the first real item going out to the public for usage,” Spisz said. “We’ve been talking about how we need something to get things started, so this is the first initial step to get education out to the public and make people more aware.”
The OCHTTF was created in January 2017 under the authorization of the BOC, and is purposed with preventing human trafficking through education, advocacy and collaboration. The task force is made up of 10 members from different Oakland County departments, which includes the Department of Health and Human Services, the Sheriff’s Office and the Youth-Assistance Circuit Court, among others.
“The overall purpose is to have a comprehensive site that would be used by people who want to learn about the crime, address the crime, create more awareness and answer questions,” Janet Jackson, commissioner of District 21 and member of the OCHTTF, said. “We’ve come together with different agencies, law enforcement and Oakland County departments to address crimes. This is our go-to info site for our residents.”
The new website arrives in the middle of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Month, with the date of the press conference landing on Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Jackson said the website is especially important considering that Michigan is ranked as the second worst state for human trafficking activities. She noted that her district, which includes Southfield, deals with the issue more so than other areas.
Jackson added that the website arrives at an opportune time, as the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is set to begin just two days after the press conference. Incidents of human trafficking are known to rise around events like the auto show due to the large number of attendees visiting from other states and countries.
Spisz said the Oakland County Health Commission will manage the new website, though other Oakland County sites are also expected to provide a link to the resource.
The January 11 press conference features speeches from County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Michael Spisz, Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Health and Human Services Director Kathy Forzley, and Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins. Other expected conference attendees include the Oakland University Police Department, members of the FBI and judge Nanci Grant, among others. Visit oakgov.com/boc to learn more.