DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Billboards are now flashing across the Miami Valley with a very important message.
A local partnership unveiled anti-human trafficking billboards Wednesday.
Abolition Ohio, a human rights initiative of the University of Dayton joined the United Methodist Women Trafficking Task Force and Key Ads to make the billboards happen.
They will be up and visible through the summer.
The U.D. human rights studies program took the lead to create a coalition to raise awareness in 2010. It was instrumental in efforts that led to Ohio Senate Bill 235 which makes human trafficking a criminal offense in Ohio.
Key activist and chair with Abolition Ohio Tony Talbot says “What we like to say is that it(billboard) hits you in both the head and the heart.”
Advocates say these billboards play a pivotal role in 4 P’s to ending human trafficking: Partnership with officials; Prosecution of traffickers; Protection of victims; but most importantly, Prevention with the public.
“Dayton is a prime, unfortunately, a prime hub for human trafficking due the intersection of Isle 70 and Isle 75. We’re within a day’s drive of all major metropolitan ares in the eastern half of the United States,” Talbot said, director of University of Dayton’s newly minted Human Rights studies program.
The advocate says Dayton citizens need to be aware, but also notes that there is a need for more enforcement.”
Meanwhile, the state’s anti-human trafficking agency somewhat echoed Talbot’s thoughts; noting also that trafficking is hard to target, as it is often an invisible problem.
“Trafficking is a hidden crime; it is often not so obvious, right in front of us,” explained Elizabeth Ranade-Janis,state anti-human trafficking coordinator.”We really want to send a strong message that Ohio’s children are not for sale.”
Leaders told 2NEWS the billboards are a unique effort with public private partnership; Key Advertisement worked to acquire and create the billboards, while United Methodist Women’s task force is leading the charge for awareness.
“This is one way that we can live out her vision of putting our faith, our hope and our love into action into making a difference in women and children and youth all around the world,” said the task force President Susan Kelleher.
Key Advertisement Vice President Stephen Keyes echoed Kelleher’s view, “I’m a little bit proud really to be able to be a part of this. Like I said, being a local company here, I work with my two brothers and my dad. Any effort that comes in front of us that we see as being something that’s great for our community, we always want to be a part of,” said Keyes, a third-generation businessman with the local ad company.
Ultimately, leaders say these billboards will save lives.
“We know that they need help and we’re going to be able to give more people help and that’s the goal,” said a confident Ranade-Janis.
The coordinator also added that a bill recently signed into law by Governor Kaisch has also added to the value of this campaign.
The new law increases protection for victims, especially minors.
Advocates believe the new law along with the billboards will fight off human trafficking in Ohio.