YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio ranks number five in the nation for the most human trafficking cases.
The problem is so big that a Human Trafficking Task Force was formed through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The operation utilizes state, local and federal law enforcement resources. Last year, 103 people were arrested for prostitution through the group’s efforts.
Much of the trafficking can be traced back to online peddling. The recent shuttering of the adult ads on the website Backpage.com is a good first step to help curb the problem, but the reality is Ohio’s vulnerability also comes from its infrastructure.
Lieutenant Jerad Sutton at the Canfield Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said while most trafficking that takes place in the state came from the Backpage website, other cases are ongoing. He said Ohio is a hub for prostitution because of the volume of traffic that moves through the state.
“A lot of traffic flows in and out of the state of Ohio, especially here on Interstate 80. Just the volume of traffic and the opportunity for people to bring prostitutes here,” Sutton said.
Truck stops and motels are hot spots for human trafficking. It’s these public places that the public has the best opportunity to see something suspicious and report it to police.
Sutton said some clues to look for are things such an older male with a younger female or multiple young females. However, victims can be any age, with the largest concentration between 21 and 30 years old. The second largest group is between 16 and 17 years old, and the third largest being 13 to 15-year-old victims.
Sutton said the biggest line of defense in the human trafficking problem is for the public to report any suspicious activity or concerns. A Human Trafficking Hotline has been established and it took over 4,000 calls last year in Ohio. The hotline is for victims, families, survivors and people reporting the crime.
The Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.
Editor’s note: The phone number for the Human Trafficking Hotline has been corrected. WKBN regrets the error.