DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A local group is trying a new tool to fight sex trafficking.
It’s a lesson they learned from the traffickers themselves, go on line. Everyday, hundreds of people are sold for sex on line in Ohio.
Tonya Folks with Be Free Dayton, an organization working to end sex trafficking, says most of the girls on those web sites are actually being sold for sex.
That’s why the organization created TURN (The UnderGrid Railroad Network) software that goes into those web sites, finds victims and tries to help them if they want it.
“This software goes into those web sites pulls the information off, cleans it up so in five seconds we can text every single person being sold on those pages,” explained Tonya Folks, Be FREE Dayton chief operating officer.
Since TURN launched two months ago, Folks says thousands of girls have responded and 30 of them have been put on a path free of slavery.
Folks says one girl is sold everyday. It is a multi-billion dollar industry and the internet is a key player.
“Ten years ago, if you wanted to reach victims of sex trafficking, you could go onto the street of you could go into a strip club, into the sex industry. Now, what has happened is because of technology that has shifted and a lot of it is online now,” said Folks.
The software is free and Folks says they’ve been working with organizations across the country to duplicate it.
The non-profit organization has implemented an outreach program. it has been used at sporting events like the Major League Baseball All-Star weekend in Cincinnati.
“We have a 20 percent response rate and we placed for sure about 15 women in the first outreach and about 15 women in the second outreach, which we held in advance of our outreach for the Cincinnati MLB,” said Folks.
Folks says they successfully helped 10 victims that weekend across the state through their cyber outreach.
Be Free is raising money to attend the 2016 Super Bowl in California and help victims get help.