With human trafficking on the rise across the state, Walworth County officials adopted new protocols Wednesday to help identify victims in local cases.
The updates were coordinated by the Walworth County Child Advocacy Center, and sex trafficking indicators were the “biggest addition” to the updates, Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld said.
“When we do identify the signs, we’re identifying them as soon as possible,” Wiedenfeld said.
Paula Hocking, manager of the Walworth County advocacy center, said she keeps track of emerging crimes affecting Walworth County, and she has noticed an influx human trafficking cases.
“If a case has been as identified as trafficking, we have to figure out how to deal with that protocol,” Hocking said. “As I look back, I never thought we’d have to deal with these very difficult situations.”
The updates are a result of a multi-jurisdictional team that collected input from the center and the district attorneys’ office, law enforcement, higher education, the medical field and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Local officials attended the signing of the updated protocols Wednesday morning, and state Attorney General Brad Schimel was a guest speaker.
In a statement to The Gazette, Schimel touted the success of the multi-jurisdictional approach.
“The Walworth County team is doing amazing work and the public is fortunate to have such dedicated and capable people serving children who are victims of abuse and neglect,” Schimel said. “By working together, they are providing the very best in child protection services. I congratulate them on this important accomplishment.”
Other updates to the protocols include ways to identify the effects of domestic violence and alcohol abuse in a child’s household.
The protocols are updated every five years, and Hocking said the county is adapting to crimes in the community.
“As the community changes, we need to change,” Hocking said.