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Detective Shares Tips on Recognizing Human Trafficking

Detective Shares Tips on Recognizing Human Trafficking

(Sam Gurwin, April 23, 2018)

Hazel Park, MI – The tight-knit community of Hazel Park takes safety seriously.  That’s why the Hazel Park Police gave a presentation about human trafficking last week.  Human trafficking is when people are forced to work without pay. Sometimes this is sex work, other instances can include factory or farm work, working in hotels and other businesses or being confined to a home and working.

This talk by seasoned Detective Janeen Gielniak, Youth & Special Victims Investigator, was requested by the Neighborhood Watch Organization. This group meets quarterly to discuss the state of affairs for their city.

Detective Gielniak’s talk mostly centered on the children of Human Trafficking. It’s all about the awareness & red flags to help detect something wrong with a youngster, Gielniak said.


We’ve heard a million times that “at-risk kids” are most susceptible. Gielniak confirmed this is true. Run-aways, foster kids and youth that abuse drugs get lured into human trafficking the most often.  But it can happen to any child.

While most kids 12-14 are playing and with their families, this is the average age of prostitution in the trafficking trade. To make matters worse, some parents actually sell their children.


Traffickers have standard techniques to keep their victims in check. Abuse goes a long way- emotional & physical. The Traffickers control their safety but also control the money earned by the illicit activities; or perhaps isolate the child from having any contact with friends or others.

Abusers are always watching, so even if there is contact, the victim may not be free to ask for help.  The abuser may lie to the youth and tell them no one cares, or make them think no one will believe them.  They may threaten the child, or they may threaten someone the child loves. This keeps the kids in the industry. They are alone and separated and without money to escape.


Knowledge of these crimes has generated has helped create specialized networks to swoop in and help when victims are found. Nurses, social workers and special foster care homes are in place to assist when someone is rescued from trafficking.

Detective Gielniak said the goal for Michigan is “working on a one-stop-shop so the children are not passed from system to system.”


From clothing to behavior one might be able to spot victims of human trafficking. Some points Gielniak made include:

(1) Some abusers use tattoos or branding a victim to denote property

(2) Older men with younger girls that don’t seem like family

(3) Girls wearing flashy or sexual clothes they seem uncomfortable in

(4) Malnutrition

(5) Unable to make eye contact

(6) Children who are abnormally energetic

(7) Children with no knowledge of the area they are in

Gielniak says to call the police, and not to get personally involved if you fear you have come across a victim. If something seems suspicious, the police are trained to decipher if it is or not. Too many kids remain in troubled situations because people were afraid to help or uncertain of acting on their suspicion.

The best solutions are helping each other in a community, and keeping an eye out for trouble. Oakland County has a Human Trafficking Task Force, and a website with more information at

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