HUMAN TRAFFICKING TASK FORCE LAUNCHES IN UPPER PENINSULA MODELED AFTER GENESEE COUNTY’S GHOST
March 23, 2021
GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- The Upper Peninsula of Michigan can “sleep a little safer” knowing a new human oppression strike team--based off of a similar team in Genesee County -- has launched above the bridge, Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said.
Swanson announced the new U.P. Human Oppression Strike Team in a Friday, March 19 Facebook Live post.
In 36 hours, Swanson said Operation Northern Exposure was also in full effect last week. The team arrested six suspects between the ages of 32 and 64, he said. Four of the suspects came to have sex with an underage girl.
One suspect had sex with an underage girl while his 4-year-old daughter was in the car strapped into a car seat playing on an tablet, Swanson said.
The sheriff said it all started a couple of months ago when a handful of sheriffs and police chiefs in northern Michigan reached out to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department after watching what GHOST has been doing.
The Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team, or GHOST, was started by former county Sheriff Robert Pickell to fight human trafficking in the area.
“We must protect those vulnerable people. We must be able to join together like they did up here -- that your hand is always there to protect these victims,” Swanson said. “That’s why human trafficking is the fastest criminal enterprise. When a predator is taken off the street it saves the lives of 25 victims. It helps kids all over, including the kids in Genesee County.”
The team includes sheriffs, police chiefs, state police, Homeland Security and FBI, Swanson said.
“They had incredible experience and great talent but they needed an operations plan,” Swanson said. “They wanted to have more of an impact in human trafficking enforcement than they already had. What they needed was the GHOST playbook and that’s exactly what they got.”
Over the following months, GHOST trained and consulted with law enforcement groups, which eventually launched Operation Northern Exposure and the U.P-based strike team.
Swanson said he was inspired to help these areas, noting that a Davison victim identified by GHOST was taken all the way to Benzie County, north of Traverse City.
“Predators have no boundaries,” he said.
Swanson also thanked Operation Underground Railroad, which helped fund the operation.
“There shall be no safe corner for predators to lurk. Law enforcement will be there,” Swanson said. “We will protect and I as the sheriff of Genesee County will continue to protect those who are vulnerable, serve those in need and unify the divided.”
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