The Eau Claire community banded together to spread the word to help keep each other safe

Last week had many Eau Claire students and locals concerned about their safety with potential cases of human trafficking

Macey VanDenMeerendonk

More stories from Macey VanDenMeerendonk

Is the Earth healing?
March 25, 2020


There were recent alleged human trafficking incidents around Eau Claire which have been debunked by Eau Claire Police Department.

If you have been on social media recently, there is a good chance you heard from local sources about the alleged human trafficking attempts. There were posts about incidents outside of Walmart, Oakwood Mall and even on the UW-Eau Claire campus.

Initially, I was in disbelief human trafficking could exist in Eau Claire, of all places. Having done research on it in the past, I knew how quickly and widely human trafficking can spread. The news of what was happening around town got around quickly and I was happy to see the encouragement of safety from people living in Eau Claire.

There were at least two posts  online about people being approached by strangers at Walmart. Morgan Santineau, an Eau Claire local, posted on Facebook last Wednesday about a young woman who was approached by two women around her own age.

The strangers asked the woman to follow them outside to a darker area away from security cameras after the woman agreed to talk to them about God, Santineau wrote.

It was also stated that six men in an Escalade drove up to them. Luckily, what could have been a dangerous situation was avoided when a friend of the woman, who knew the signs of a human trafficking situation, brought her back inside, Santineau wrote.

Brittany Cink, an Eau Claire student, posted on Eau Claire’s Class of 2021 Facebook page last Wednesday, warning other students about the situations occurring. She said to never walk alone — especially at night — and to use the emergency buttons around campus in case of emergency.

Fortunately, WQOW posted an article with a statement from the Eau Claire Police Department saying the incidents have no relation to what they were presumed to be. They said the strangers approaching people are from a religious group and also want to remind people they can say no, walk away and report if their requests are ignored.

Although this was a false alarm, human trafficking happens all over the world every day. This one hit close to home and it’s important to keep in mind the ways to keep yourself and others safe in a real scenario.

It is good people of Eau Claire are aware of possible human trafficking situations and voicing their concerns to bring attention with the intention to help others. Even though this wasn’t a human trafficking case, it’s something we can learn from.

In 2014, there were 43 reported cases of human trafficking in Wisconsin, according to Wisconsin Gazette online. Some of the reports were of young girls saved from forced sex work.

This issue is on a serious rise in the U.S., with an increase of 35.7 percent from the previous number recorded in 2016, according to UPI news. With it being such a prominent issue, it’s important people become educated about the warning signs in the case of an actual  human trafficking situation.

Eau Claire has the reputation of a close community, and through this scare we proved our willingness to look out for our neighbors. Let’s take away an important lesson in safety and continue to make Eau Claire a safe place to call home.