BELOIT, Wis. (WTVO) — A crime that is becoming more common in the area creates complications when it comes to bringing cases to court.
That is because the people being victimized sometimes do not realize their situation. Investigators in Rock County believe that a specific case is just the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s just sad, because they’re wonderful, wonderful people,” said Detective Amber Davies of the Beloit Police Department.
Davies has been with the department for her entire law enforcement career. She has handled a lot of tough cases, going from patrol to child abuse investigating. Her focus has now shifted to a growing problem.
“Trafficking is one that recently is new,” Davies said. “I mean, it’s always been out there, I think, but the way our law has made it now, it’s actually – people see it differently.”
She just wrapped up her first trafficking case, the first to go to a jury in Rock County. Ieem Currie, 41, was found guilty of several charges in October, including Human Trafficking and Keeping a Place of Prostitution.
Davies said that investigating a case this this is tough.
“These are difficult because usually your victim’s not calling you saying, ‘I’m trafficked,'” she said. “You find it, you work with them, you put it in their heads. So, you explain the law to them and then they realize, ‘Oh my god, I am. I’m being trafficked.'”
Many of the women involved in trafficking start out as prostitutes, which can make it tough for a jury to see them as victims, according to Davies.
“I think that sigma of, ‘they get into this, it’s their choice, they’re doing this,’ and it can be to an extent, but then when you have someone who is taking over their life by withholding drugs or giving them a place to stay, that is what we have to get rid of – that stigma and realize that they are true victims and somebody’s got to help them,” Davies said.
Kelsey Hood-Christenson is the director of survivor empowerment services at Beloit’s “Family Services.” She said that trafficking presents unique challenges.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault survivors come to us and say, ‘I’ve been assaulted, I would like services,'” she said. “Trafficking survivors aren’t necessarily the same way. It comes through a lot of our work with Child Protective Services identifying at risk youth, or law enforcement or other people recognizing signs and bringing forth, and us connecting with them.”
Hood-Christenson believes that the community plays a key part in seeing the signs of someone being victimized.
“Things like if they don’t have a consistent timeline of where they’ve been, or if they don’t have their documentation with them, just different red flags that people may put off as, ‘this person doesn’t know what’s going on,’ or that may actually cue us into, ‘Wait, this might actually be a result of trafficking,” Hood-Christenson said.
Davies said that there are a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together to prosecute crimes like the Currie case.
“Some people think this is happening in other countries… or big cities. It is, and it might look a little differently, but it’s happening everywhere. I know this is not going to be the only case I ever get,” Davies said. “There’s things about them you can relate to. They’re all human. They all could be your sister, you know what I mean? They could be your sister, you children.”
Currie will be sentenced in February. He faces 75 years in prison.
If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.