GENESSEE COUNTY, Mich. — A 16-year-old girl locked in a barn surrounded by barbed wire was discovered Friday by investigators during a countywide sweep to locate 27 children who are considered at-risk and "off the grid."
Genessee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said the teen was being trafficked by her 21-year-old boyfriend, WNEM reported.
“Her parents were terrified,” Swanson said. “One thing led to another, we found where she was: she was locked in a barn that had a fence with barbed wire on top. And she was trafficked. She was taken out of the county.”
The boyfriend was arrested, WNEM reported. He is one of 17 people who have been arrested in five other operations the agency has undertaken since March to root out human trafficking, officials said.
In the latest operation, deputies spanned the county performing welfare checks to find 27 children considered at-risk by schools and courts, WEYI reported.
Victims are frequently lured into becoming trafficked unwittingly.
“So, it’s the promise of something better. If someone’s seeking love, they promise them love. If someone’s seeking shelter, they promise them shelter. Whatever it is, they groom them,” Swanson told WEYI. “It could happen at a school like this, or it could happen on the side of the road. So, that’s the sign you need to see. Who is lacking and who’s providing? And once they lock on, then they become property; and they become very possessive to the point where they see them as property, and they could kill them in a minute.”