MONROE, Michigan — The Monroe County Sheriff's Office launched a new crime task force to combat human trafficking.
The announcement of the new task force was made during a news conference Thursday morning at the Monroe County Emergency Management building.
The new team is called V.I.P.E.R., which stands for Violent Internet Predator Exploitation Response. It's made up of members from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Monroe Police Department and Michigan State Police.
They started in July and two of their operations have led to the arrest of five alleged predators - some from Toledo. All five were charged with one count of child sexually abusive activity - a 20 year felony - one count of accosting a child for immoral purposes and one count of using a computer and internet to commit a crime.
"The national statistics are very clear. For every individual we take off the street, we save 24 victims," said Sheriff Troy Goodnough.
The task force was trained by the Genessee County G.H.O.S.T. team in Mid-Michigan.
"It doesn't matter where you are, whether you're in southern Michigan or northern Ohio. There are people who are going to protect you and we're going to identify those who are consumers of young people being trafficked," said Sheriff Chris Swanson of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.
Another aspect of the operation is education.
"We're going to go to the high schools and colleges, the community events," Goodnough said. "We want to educate our community as to what to look for in human trafficking, what to expect and how to report it."
"Our biggest concern is educating and getting to the young people," said Mary Kapp of the Monroe County Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition. "We're hoping the sheriff will have recoveries of people who are enslaved in this industry,"
Sheriff Goodnough hopes to collaborate with Toledo and Lucas County law enforcement if they want to participate.