Monroe County sheriff launches anti-human trafficking task force

MONROE — Monroe County Sheriff Troy Goodnough on Thursday announced the formation of a new anti-human trafficking task force.

The Violent Internet and Predator Exploitation Response — or VIPER — team is a partnership of the sheriff’s office, Monroe city police, Monroe Area Narcotics Team Investigation Services, Michigan State Police, the FBI, and the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office. The initiative is modeled after the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team, or GHOST, in Genesee County, which provided free materials, training, and other resources.

“To date, there was little to no proactive enforcement to address these crimes [in Monroe County],” Sheriff Goodnough said in a news conference. “We owe it to the victims to be their voice. But more importantly, we owe it to them to recover them from the shackles of exploitation and abuse.”

VIPER has already arrested five suspects in three operations, the first of which occurred last month. The sheriff did not disclose identifying information, but two of the offenders were from Toledo, two from Monroe, and one from Trenton, Mich. Each is charged with one count each of child sexually abusive activity and using a computer and internet to commit a crime, both 20-year felonies, and accosting a child for immoral purposes, a four-year felony.