Human Trafficking is gaining attention as a global human rights problem that demands local action.
Last year, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine formed the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, and he took part in a forum on the subject Wednesday at the Columbus Metropolitan Club. Alison Holm reports.
State leaders studying the issue say it's important to recognize that
human trafficking is both widespread and hard to spot. Dewine says human
trafficking is happening right here in central Ohio.
DeWine:...and it takes many, many different forms. it can be... going in
to get your nails done and you look around and see the women who work
there don't speak English, they won't look you in the eye, they won't
engage you in any way, and there's sleeping bags over in the corner.
Probably a pretty good indication that there's human trafficking of some
sort going on.
The new state task force on human trafficking reports OHIO RANKS 5TH IN
THE US. NEARLY 5,000 CHILDREN ARE TRAFFICKED AND/OR AT RISK AT BEING
TRAFFICKED IN OHIO EACH YEAR, and the average age of children brought into
the sex trade is 13. DeWine says it's important to understand the scope
of the problem, because it's not always easy to identify the crime.
Dewine: You know, if someone breaks into our house, we know that's a
crime; we report it. If you see someone get mugged on the street, you
know they've been mugged, and we hope we call 9-1-1 or call the police.
But human trafficking? It occurs and we don't many times see it. So I
think it's an awareness, it's an education, it's a cultural change... that
many times people we've identified in the past as criminals, are in fact
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Paul Herbert agrees that perspective
is an important part of appreciating how widespread the problem has
become. He says he saw all defendents in sex cases as criminals until the
day a woman in his courtroom on solicitation charges asked him how she
would know if she were a victim of trafficking. Women, who are often the
victims of the sex trade, account for the overwhelming majority of
criminal prosections. In Ohio, 10 men are prosecuted for every 1,000
women charged. Herbert says education is needed about what many still see
as a "victimless crime".
Herbert: Well, programs of that nature are just beginning, they're at the
very beginning stage. And I tell you what, our young men need to learn
the reality behind... the fact that not only can it destroy lives, but you
can go to jail for 15 years if you get involved in it.
IN June 2012 the Attorney General's office released the Ohio Human
Trafficking Task Force recomendations, inccluding standardizing the
screening process among state agencies for victims, and revoking the
business licenses of those found guilty of human trafficking. Legislation
introduced last year by Toldeo-area representative Teresa Fedor and signed
by Governor Kasich created increased the penalities for those convicted of
human trafficking, and increased resources for the victims.