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Pastors, Volunteers Fight Human Trafficking at Auto Show

PHOTO: Church and community groups are using education as their "punch" against the increase in prostitution and human trafficking they say comes with Detroit's big auto show this week, when thousands of journalists, automotive experts and visitors arrive. Photo credit: Mona Shand.
PHOTO: Church and community groups are using education as their "punch" against the increase in prostitution and human trafficking they say comes with Detroit's big auto show this week, when thousands of journalists, automotive experts and visitors arrive. Photo credit: Mona Shand.
January 13, 2014

DETROIT - The 25th annual Detroit International Auto Show rolls into town this week. While it may be good for the automotive and tourism industries, the event has faith-based and community groups mobilizing to fight a wave of human trafficking they say is an unfortunate byproduct. John Burow, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church of Clawson, is among those who led an interfaith prayer service to bring the issue to light, because, he said, many people don't connect the dots linking the big car show and prostitution.

"Wherever large numbers of men away from their families and their communities gather, there will be a certain percentage who will be looking for commercial sex," he declared.

The pastors have joined forces with "SOAP Up Detroit," whose acronym stands for "Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution," and is an effort to educate hotels and motels near Cobo Center to recognize trafficking. They're also distributing thousands of bars of soap labeled with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, 888-373-7888.

According to Burow, because human trafficking is such a complex problem, tackling it requires a multifaceted, community-based approach.

"A judge who sees these people arrested for prostitution as the victims they are, rather than as criminals, could make a huge difference. (That's) if law enforcement can be trained to ask the right questions, if somebody in an urgent care or emergency department knows the signs of trafficking," he declared.

In a recent nationwide human trafficking sting, metro Detroit was second in the nation for the number of victims rescued.

Last year, nearly 800,000 people from around the world attended the North American International Auto Show.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI