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Ohio is among hubs of human trafficking

The neighborhood was not as close-knit as the one Sara had grown up in. Everyone just kept to themselves here for the most part. At least that’s how it seemed to Sara. She took on some of the blame for that. She had attempted to be “neighborly” but this seemed to be a transient kind of place with people moving in and moving on all the time. She had been advised that there were people of questionable repute around them and it wasn’t safe for her to go walking alone after dark. Here? Here in her hometown?

She still remembered the day the drug task force stormed an apartment building down the street. That was a scary and unexpected event. Several meth kitchens had been found around town, near a school, close to other neighbors who were unaware of what was cooking around them.

Sara could go online to find out where sexual predators lived near her. But she minded her own business, as she had been taught to do when she was growing up. But when she was growing up that neighborhood was like a large family. If there was any kind of drug culture around, the only ones who knew of it were the ones who were a part of it.

Her husband began to refer to one particular neighbor who didn’t associate with anyone. All of a sudden there seemed to be a lot of young people coming and going, young girls. Her husband suspected drugs. She suspected human trafficking for sex but she couldn’t prove anything. She chose to mind her own business because she didn’t have any evidence. And suddenly the household was packed up and moved intensifying the feeling that something was amiss there.

Thoughts about the young girls who had been seen there bothered Sara’s conscience. What ifs began to race through her mind. But for the grace of God, she thought, that could be a daughter or a granddaughter, a niece or the child of a friend. And I did nothing.

In 2017 local news reporting identified Ohio as fifth in the nation for human trafficking, a hub of prostitution because of the high volume of traffic through the state. The state of Ohio’s Human Trafficking Task Force advises about this “modern day slavery where people profit from control and exploitation of others.” This includes prostitution and forced labor.

Visit humantrafficking.ohio.gov/campaign.html for the list of signs of human trafficking. When you report your suspicions you will need to know the details of the situation that led you to believe trafficking was happening. How do you know it’s by force, fraud or coercion? Provide names, addresses, phone number, license plate, demographics and physical description of the controller and/or the victim.

The best line of defense is to report suspicious activity or concerns to the human trafficking hotline, 888-3737-888, call 911 or text “Info” or “Help” to BeFree at “233733”. The victim support 24-hour hotline is 1-800-346-7555.

Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) (www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org) provides training for truckers, the eyes and ears of American highways, to “Make the call. Save lives.” Truckers are helping to close the loop holes of traffickers. The Industry Training Program trains for realities of trafficking (knowledge) and how the trucking industry can help (action.) TAT also has a mobile exhibit to educate everyone about domestic sex trafficking.

Safe Harbor provides assistance for those who are rescued from sex trafficking. Instead of punishing the victims, the state of Ohio wants to go after those who pay for sex with these victims and those who profit from them. And it is working. Between 2014 and 2016, nearly 1,500 victims have been rescued. Reportedly, runaways make up 96 percent of the victims. The number one goal is to get the victim out of that situation.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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