One of the biggest efforts by law enforcement across the United States is to combat human trafficking. What should probably be made clear first is what human trafficking is. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which criminals profit from the control and exploitation of others. The same Ohio roads that are used legitimately are also used by human traffickers and smugglers to transport their victims and further their operations. The OHSP reports they are committed to combating human trafficking in Ohio and have taken new steps this year to rescue potential victims.
Some of the efforts made by the OSHP include partnering with Truckers Against Trafficking, since truck stops are one of the leading areas where sex trafficking occurs. The OSHP teamed with the trucks to ensure that trucking schools in Ohio will be required to provide one hour of human trafficking awareness training for students obtaining a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) for the first time. Truckers will be taught in the class to recognize the signs of human trafficking at truck stops.
The OSHP has trained troopers to identify signs of human trafficking during traffic stops. In addition, state employees have been trained to identify, confront and prevent human trafficking, which was an objective of the Governor’s Human Trafficking Task Force.
In addition, Ohio Investigative Unit agents work with liquor permit premises on how to spot human trafficking.
A legitimate question at this point might be – how can I help officials with this problem?
“The best thing the average person can do to assist our efforts, is to be vigilant and pay attention to what is going on around them, especially at rest areas and truck stops,” Lieutenant karla Taulbee of the Jackson District of the OSHP told the Daily Times. “If they see someone, male or female, and it looks like they are being held against their will, call their local law enforcement office or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or call #677 to be connected to the closest patrol post. If it looks like they are being forced into a vehicle, get the vehicle description, tag number, and direction of travel if possible. They should not approach a possible trafficker.”
Submissions can also be made via text messages to the BeFree text line at 233733 as well as online (https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/) and through email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Human trafficking takes two primary forms – labor trafficking, which involves compelling people to provide labor or services, and sex trafficking, which involves forcing individuals to perform commercial sex acts. Both use force, fear and coercion to keep victims working against their will. Both types occur in Ohio.
Just in 2015, law enforcement agencies across Ohio reported 102 human trafficking investigations. This led to 104 arrests, and 33 successful prosecutions, and the identification of 203 potential victims and 130 suspected traffickers.
“Human traffickers look for a very specific type of person to victimize, and oftentimes they set their sights on children who are young and have a history of running away from home,” Attorney General DeWine said. “In an effort to prevent the victimization of these children, I have asked my office’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to begin regularly analyzing the Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse in order to proactively identify kids who may be vulnerable to traffickers.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.