Human Trafficking is Happening Here
Human trafficking is happening here in Wisconsin, in urban and suburban areas, small and large cities, and towns and villages, and this month I teamed up with Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Eloise Anderson to alert the public to this insidious crime during Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) and DCF have made significant strides in improving support for people who have been trafficked and dismantling trafficking networks, but our greatest resource is the everyday citizen who is fueling up at a truck stop, shopping at the mall, or staying at a hotel. Be on the lookout for signs of trafficking - and when you see it, report it.
The state’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, co-led by DCF Secretary Eloise Anderson and Attorney General Schimel, developed a guide that can be consulted if a person has concerns that a youth is being sexually trafficked or exploited. Anyone can review the indicators in this guide, follow the directions for the appropriate response, and use the included contact information to report sex trafficking or exploitation in any of the 72 counties or 11 Tribes in Wisconsin.
In a statewide assessment, Wisconsin law enforcement in nearly every county in the state reported that human trafficking occurs in their community. Recognizing this growing problem, in September 2017 Attorney General Schimel established the Human Trafficking Bureau within the Division of Criminal Investigation. The bureau provides a coordinated statewide strategy to identify, target, and prosecute traffickers in order to combat human trafficking and provide needed assistance to survivors. From September 2017 to January 1, 2018, the DOJ Human Trafficking Bureau has:
- Conducted 23 child and adult sex trafficking investigations;
- Arrested 15 child and adult sex traffickers;
- Arrested six “Johns;”
- Recovered 20 adult sex trafficking victims; and
- Recovered four child sex trafficking victims.
DOJ Joins Northwoods Coalition and Provides Funding to Fight Increasing Methamphetamine Abuse
This month, I joined the Alliance for Wisconsin Youth, Marshfield Clinic Health System, and the Northwoods Coalition at a kickoff on preventing methamphetamine abuse in Wisconsin. At the summit, the coalition launched the kNOw Meth public awareness campaign and announced a new report that will increase collaboration and guide local efforts to prevent methamphetamine abuse. I also committed $50,000 to assist the public awareness campaign and further prevention efforts.
Ten years ago, we managed to reduce meth in Wisconsin by shutting down the big labs, but the more potent, addictive, and cheaper meth being abused today is from Mexico and has quietly surged in the state. Of course, for law enforcement, public health, and social services professionals, there is nothing quiet about the surge as it has overwhelmed their systems in recent years.
The kNOw Meth public awareness campaign being launched by the coalition and the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) will raise awareness in Wisconsin communities. The campaign will inform the public:
- Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant impacting Wisconsin communities;
- Methamphetamine impacts more than just the person abusing the substance, including children and the environment, and;
- Communities should look for signs of addiction, methamphetamine use and trafficking.
DOJ Launches Public Awareness Campaign for Reporting Elder Abuse
Child Sexual Predator Convicted in Buffalo County
33-year-old Jacob D. Vogel of Winona, MN pled guilty in Buffalo County Circuit Court to charges of 1st Degree Sexual Assault of a Child Under Age 13 and Child Enticement.
With this conviction, justice has finally been served to this victim and their family. Putting this man in prison is just one part of how the criminal justice system can support survivors of sexual assault. I spent more than 25 years as a prosecutor, largely in the sensitive crimes unit, and I have seen time and again how prosecutors can deliver justice to survivors. Case by case, DOJ will continue to serve survivors by providing the support they need and deserve.
This conviction is the result of a lengthy investigation conducted by the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with additional assistance by the Holmen Police Department. The Buffalo County District Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Service Coordinator provided crime victim assistance and support. DOJ Assistant Attorney General Shelly Rusch served as special prosecutor.
DOJ Announces Record-Breaking Accomplishments & Reforms for Open Government in 2017
When I took office in January 2015, I pledged to promote open government by making DOJ more responsive and accountable. Since then, our Office of Open Government has made great strides towards promoting open government, and serves as a statewide model and a resource to citizens and state and local government officials. All of these reforms—reducing response times, posting more public records online, and dedicating employees to open-government work—are sensible and serve the significant public interest of open government. Any agency or local unit of government that wishes to undertake similar reforms is always free to contact us for guidance and assistance.
As seen in the chart below, members of the press, public interest groups, and other members of the public have made significantly more public requests year over year. Before Attorney General Schimel took office, the agency received about 400 requests per year. In 2017, the agency broke all previous records by responding to nearly 700 public records requests, an increase of over 60% since Attorney General Schimel took office.
In response to the increase of requests made, Attorney General Schimel has dramatically decreased response times, from an average of over 80 calendar days in 2015 to 24 calendar days in 2017. This represents a decrease in response times of nearly 70%.
Ask the Office of Open Government
Question: When does a meeting occur such that the open meetings law applies?
Answer: The Wisconsin Open Meetings Law ensures that all meetings of governmental bodies are held publicly and remain open to all citizens unless otherwise expressly provided by law. A meeting occurs when a convening of members of a governmental body satisfies the two requirements of the so-called Showers test, so named after the court case, State ex rel. Newspapers, Inc. v. Showers, 135 Wis. 2d 77, 398 N.W.2d 154 (1987), in which the test was articulated. First, there must be a purpose to engage in governmental business (the purpose requirement). Second, the number of members of the governmental body present must be sufficient to determine the body’s course of action (the numbers requirement).
Regarding the purpose requirement, a body is engaged in governmental business when its members gather to simply hear information on a matter within the body’s realm of authority. Thus, mere attendance at an informational meeting on a matter within a body’s realm of authority satisfies the purpose requirement. The members of the body need not discuss the matter or even interact. This applies to a body that is only advisory and that has no power to make binding decisions.
Regarding the numbers requirement, a quorum is the minimum number of a body’s membership necessary to act. Thus, a convening of a quorum of a body’s members would meet the numbers requirement. However, a negative quorum, the minimum number of a body’s membership necessary to prevent action, also would meet the numbers requirement. Determining the number of members of a particular body necessary to meet the numbers requirement is fact-specific and depends on the circumstances of the particular body.
A meeting does not include any social or chance gathering or conference that is not intended to avoid the requirements of the open meetings law. However, a meeting of a governmental body occurs when a sufficient number of members plan to and do attend or regularly attend a meeting of another governmental body and the subject matter of that meeting is within that body’s realm of authority. In such a situation, it is important that the governmental body whose members attend another body’s meeting ensures that the open meetings law’s requirements, including notice, are followed.
If a majority of the members of a governmental body are gathered, the law presumes that the members conducted a meeting subject to the requirements of the open meetings law. The body members may overcome the presumption by proving that they did not discuss any subject within the realm of the body’s authority.
The purpose of the open meetings law is to ensure public access to information about governmental affairs, and the law is to be liberally construed to achieve this purpose. Any doubts as to whether a particular gathering constitutes a meeting subject to the open meetings law should be resolved in favor of complying with the provisions of the law.
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