YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Human trafficking is a problem plaguing many communities. People, mainly women, are bought and sold for sex.
Ohio’s human trafficking numbers are climbing and that’s due, in part, because of better policing and reporting of the crime.
Just last year law enforcement identified 167 suspected buyers of sex, 129 potential sex traffickers, and 203 possible victims. A breakdown of the victims is listed below:
203 Victims (breakdown of gender, race and age:
- Female – 19
- Male – 3
- No gender – 4
- White – 79
- Black – 45
- Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Alaskan – 46; 33 did not list an ethnicity
- Under the age of 12 – 3
- 13 years old – 4
- 14 to 15 years old – 23
- 16 to 17 years old – 30
- 18 to 20 years old – 16
- 21 to 29 years old – 57
- 30 to 40 years old – 29
- 41 to 59 years old – 32
- 60 to 84 years old – 1
(Eight did not have an age listed)
The victims that are being used for sex are not prostitutes, according to those tasked with trying to stop it, they are unwilling “slaves.” And to make stamping out the problem more difficult is the fact that the business is booming and internet is making is easier for buyers to find victims.
According to Tony Talbott, with the Prevention, Education and Awareness Committee, the largest commercial sex market in the United States is on one specific website. Youngstown even has its own escort section on one of its pages.
On the site, ads are placed offering services from areas such as Austintown, Niles and Belmont Avenue – all locations that are easily accessible from the highway.
Ohio Attorney Mike DeWine said people are beginning to understand that human trafficking isn’t something that happens in a foreign county, it’s a problem that is prevalent across the U.S. and here in Ohio.
With that in mind, DeWine’s office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol have started and education and interception program. They are targeting truck stops and educating travelers about the human trafficking problem and what to look out for. Specialized training sessions are also being held for troopers to learn how to identify and investigate human trafficking cases.
It’s that training that victim Rachel Kaisk says could have saved her life.
“When I first got arrested, I was 16 and they had me. But if that officer would have just took me and said what is wrong with you? Why are you out there, he could have saved me,” Kaisk said. Click here to read more about Rachel’s experiences with human trafficking.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is holding informational sessions with parents and students at local high schools to explain what human trafficking is and how to prevent it. The next forum will be held Wednesday, March 2 at 7 p.m. at South Range Schools. The meeting will be conducted inside the K-12 Complex auditorium.