DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Ohio is topping a list for all the wrong reasons.
The state is ranked fifth in the nation for human trafficking investigations. A recent report from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office indicates 1,000 juveniles are trafficked every year.
Tony Talbott, a political science professor at the University of Dayton says it’s a problem happening in our own backyard.
“It’s a major problem. In absolute numbers it’s hard to say because it’s a difficult crime to uncover,” says Talbott, a founding member of Abolition Ohio, the Miami Valley’s anti-human trafficking coalition.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. According to the International Labor Force, the money illegally acquired through human trafficking is estimated to be more than $35 billion. Talbott says many don’t understand the crime.
“It’s one human being exploiting another for their personal gain. It’s violent and callous, morally reprehensible and it’s a very easy crime to stop,” says Talbott.
Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for the number of calls coming in to the human trafficking hotline according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Talbott tells 2 NEWS reporter, Maytal Levi, that’s good and bad news.
“That says there is a problem with sex trafficking in ohio but it also says we’re doing a good job with awareness raising because people know when they see a crime who to report it to,” says Talbott.
In 2015, 289 human trafficking cases were reported in ohio and more than a thousand calls came in to the state’s trafficking hotline. A significant increase compared to the year before. In 2014, 164 cases were reported and 809 calls came in.
“The national hotline is helpnig a lot in Ohio. In a lot of ways they provide awareness. It’s an essential point. So, trafficking can be reported and then get back down to the local people on the ground here and it’s fantastic for research, we can see how big of a problem we really have,” says Talbott.
2 NEWS checked with the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office and learned in 2015, zero human trafficking cases were prosecuted. Talbott says it’s happening here, it’s just hard to label.
“It’s hard to prosecute. Crimes like drug trafficking are a lot easier because you have an illicit drug. Here, it’s a victim of a crime where a child or adult has to give testimony for the investigation to continue,” says Talbott.
In 2012, Governor John Kasich’s office formed the Human Trafficking Task Force to help victims and catch those responsible. To report a crime or learn more, call 1-888-3737-888.