Farmington Hills officials co-host town hall on human trafficking

Farmington Hills City Council members Theresa Rich and Samantha Steckloff are among a group of elected officials hosting an April 11 Town Hall on Human Trafficking at the Novi Civic Center, 45175 10 Mile Rd.

The 6:30 p.m. event is free and open to the public.

Globally, human trafficking is a $39 billion industry and affects more than 40 million people, according to UNICEF and the International Labour Organization. Novi City Council Member Kelly Breen describes it as “a form of modern day slavery.”

”It has no borders and affects every state and every community, including ours,” she said in a press release.

This event is part of a series; Breen hosted two events in 2017 in conjunction with S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents From Prostitution) Redford and State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky of Livonia. Rich and Steckloff hosted a forum in 2018 for elected officials.

“We need to have this conversation at the local level, find the best practices to combat trafficking, and determine how we can best deter activities,” Steckloff said. “This is not a partisan issue,”

Rich added, “And we must work across multiple levels of government and with our citizens if we want to stop this from happening.”

Oakland County Commissioner Gwen Markham concurs. “This is happening in our community, whether we want to admit it or not. Novi had a horrible fatal fire in 2016. This tragedy had elements of labor trafficking that have simply never been openly discussed.”

Breen said she will be discussing how local government can make an impact, and other panelists will specifically address the roles of public safety officers.

The panel will include: Assistant Attorney General Kelly Carter, Professor Danielle Kalil of the University of Michigan Human Trafficking Clinic, Julia Pulver, R.N., Karen Moore, executive director of Sanctum House, and Lt. Wendy Reyes with the Oakland County Sheriff Department and the Oakland County Human Trafficking Task Force.

“This is a difficult and often very uncomfortable topic,” acknowledged Breen. “We are encouraging everyone to attend, but it may be hard for survivors or other victims of abuse to handle. Anyone wanting more information but is hesitant to attend can contact me and we will make any necessary arrangements.”