MILWAUKEE -- The tragic deaths of Noelani Robinson and her mother, Sierra, highlight a real problem we have in the city: human trafficking. The community rallied behind the search for Noelani and as we mourn the terrible loss together, there are many other children in Milwaukee who could use our help.
"Any time that we lose a child, especially in this manner, is extremely disheartening," said Reggie Moore, director of the Office of Violence Prevention.
Reggie Moore is the director of the City of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention.
"On a day-to-day basis, young people are being trafficked and exploited as well as adults in our community and we're not talking about it enough," said Moore.
Noelani Robinson's mom, Sierra, was one of those victims. Police say Dariaz Higgins was her pimp. Noelani was caught in the middle of a dangerous world hiding in plain sight.
"You can see someone in the street who you have no idea is involved in human trafficking," Moore said. "When you look at the data and the research, you're more likely to be trafficked by someone you know."
The problem is prevalent in Milwaukee, which is known nationally as a major hub.
"When you look at our proximity to the Dells, to Chicago, and to other metropolitan areas, those are contributing factors," said Moore.
Moore says education and raising awareness is a start to help prevent human trafficking. The goal is to train more people to look for signs and not turn a blind eye.
"This is happening on a regular basis," said Moore.
Partnering with the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee, the Office of Violence Prevention is making it a priority to raise awareness and help victims.
"What we're asking people to do is sustain the outrage that they feel today at the loss of this beautiful young lady..." Moore said. "...and look at the children that are still with us and really say, what can we do?"
Right under our nose, another little girl or boy is waiting for help.
"She was a beautiful toddler and her life was cut short as a result of human trafficking. Her unfortunate death is a reminder of the dangers of human trafficking," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.
You can get involved with the human trafficking task force, there's a series of events and fundraisers to try to support organizations that are working directly to help rescue folks as well as to promote accountability for suspects.