By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Brad Schimel unveiled a plan Thursday to combat human trafficking in Wisconsin as he works to gain ground on Democratic rival Susan Happ in the race for attorney general.
Schimel told reporters during a conference call that he would direct the state Department of Justice to raise public awareness of human trafficking through a media campaign similar to the agency’s “Fly Effect” heroin awareness effort. He also would assist industries associated with the practice, such as trucking and hospitality sectors, recognize signs of trafficking.
Schimel wants DOJ to track the effectiveness of a bill Gov. Scott Walker signed this spring that tweaked Wisconsin’s trafficking laws and gave victims a way to void any crimes they may have committed. Old state law defined trafficking as recruiting, enticing, harboring or transporting someone against their consent. The bill removed the consent element and added using schemes to control someone to the definition. It also allows victims to ask judges to expunge prostitution convictions.
Schimel said, too, that he would advocate for any additional changes to state law that would make it easier to prosecute traffickers, have DOJ train local police to recognize trafficking, and coordinate victim rehabilitation with nonprofit organization and churches.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery for the women and girls trapped in its web and has powerful links to drug and violent crime,” Schimel said. “It’s real. It’s here and I will continue to confront it as attorney general”
Schimel offered almost no specifics about how he would execute his plan. Pressed on how much the plan might cost, he said it would take “an increase in resources” but didn’t have an estimate of how much.
Schimel, the Waukesha County district attorney, entered the attorney general race in October after incumbent Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced he wouldn’t seek re-election. Happ, the Jefferson County district attorney, is coming off a surprise win in a three-way Democratic primary last month. A Marquette University Law School poll released last week showed Happ leading Schimel among likely voters, 42 percent to 32 percent.
Happ’s campaign manager, Josh Lease, said in an email that Happ supports the ideas behind Schimel’s plan but criticized him for failing to provide details or a price tag.
“When a candidate proposes a new plan or program,” Lease wrote, “there’s an obligation to estimate how much it will cost and where the money will come from. Otherwise it is pie in the sky.”