Commissioners approve placing human trafficking prevention stickers in park restrooms

OSCEOLA COUNTY — County officials hope victims of human trafficking will be able to find the help they need as the Rest Area Label Program is implemented in local communities.

During the Osceola County Board of Commissioners Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, commissioners approved allowing the Meceola Human Trafficking Task Force to place stickers meant to bring awareness to human trafficking in restrooms at county parks.

Dee Van Horn, task force manager, explained the stickers are part of the Rest Area Label Program and look like small stop signs. The stickers list contact information for a national 24/7 hotline controlled by Polaris Project, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization which attempts to prevent modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Around the edge of the sticker there are tabs for people to tear off which contain the contact information as well.

Van Horn said the purpose of the stop sign stickers is to help anyone who has been a victim of human trafficking or anyone who has been witness to a case of human trafficking.

"The idea is to bring awareness and to provide a phone number you can call from anywhere," Van Horn said.

The program was originally started by Livingston County Abolitionist Project, and this group, with the help of other organizations, has worked to place the stop sign stickers inside bathroom stalls in rest stops along some Michigan highways.

Van Horn said the next step was implementing the program on a local level.

To do this, the Meceola Human Trafficking Task Force has needed permission from local governments, including the Osceola County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner Larry Emig said although it is the county's policy not to allow anything to be put up on county property unless it has to do directly with the county, during the meeting the motion was passed to waive the policy in this one instance to allow the stop sign stickers to go up in the parks.

Emig explained board members felt because human trafficking is an issue of public safety and it is the board's responsibility to take care of the people's best interests, allowing the stickers to be posted was the correct decision.

"We really care about our citizens and their safety," he said.