EAU CLAIRE,Wis. (WEAU)-- Governor Scott Walker is traveling around the state today to sign several bills into law to add protections for Wisconsin’s most vulnerable victims, children.
The bills are meant to provide local law enforcement and child welfare agencies with additional tools to combat child sex trafficking in Wisconsin.
One bill in the series will remove obstacles to sharing information about missing children between law enforcement officers and child welfare agencies, thus allowing them to respond more quickly. Another is aimed at protecting Wisconsin’s children from harm and to improve the way investigations are handled.
Now, local traffic prevention agencies and law enforcement here in Eau Claire are responding to the new laws.
Six bipartisan bills signed into law Tuesday by Governor Walker are all designed to curb sex trafficking and child abuse throughout the state.
“All of this really is to give tools to prosecutors and law enforcement to help protect our children in the state of Wisconsin,” says Walker.
Walker traveled to several county law enforcement agencies, which he says will play a vital role in communicating transparently with anti-trafficking organizations.
Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer says the open lines of communication will help all agencies involved.
“We're able to stop a lot of crimes here in the Chippewa Valley, just because of the collaboration. We've seen kids here from Milwaukee or the Twin Cities that are right in the middle of sex trafficking. We want to work with groups that can help us get down to finding out how those kids get involved in sex trafficking. Is it through drugs? Was it money? What was it?” says Cramer.
Jodi Emerson with the anti-trafficking organization, Fierce Freedom says some people will go straight to the non-profit, instead of to police for help.
“We're that safe, comfortable person that people will talk to and to have the different agencies communicating with each other and to have non-profits working with public officials is always going to be better for our community,” says Emerson.
Representative Jill Billings, (D) La Crosse, who was a co-author of one of the bills says now child services will also have to open an investigation into child abuse cases.
“A child that is forced or coerced or manipulated into sex trafficking now is looked at as a victim and can get services and children protective services can look into their case, they can have a safe place to stay, healthcare, mental health treatment if they need it,” says Billings.
“We know that crimes against children have no boundaries. They don't know political boundaries, they don't know age or economic boundaries, and these are things people expect their state government to be involved in,” says Walker.