DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – While thousands are expected to attend the First Four at the University of Dayton, law enforcement says the event could draw in sex traffickers.
Tonya Folks is the human trafficking liaison for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Folks says there are two types of traffickers, the ones rooted in the Miami Valley and ones that travel for events like this.
“They advertise, they come in early. They are rubbing shoulders with the citizens of our community,” said Folks.
The sex trafficking industry operates as a business. Folks says about 90 percent of it is done online and during events like the NCAA tournament business, it doubles.
“They are going out to eat at our restaurants, they are hanging out at our stores, hanging out where that demographic might be that’s why citizens need to be concerned,” said Folks.
Even more disturbing, the average age of recruitment for girls is 12 to 14. For boys, it’s 11 to 14.
“The traveling trafficker is especially harmful because if they do recruit a child in our community they are more likely to leave with that child, making it more difficult for us to find them,” said Folks.
Last year, during the week leading up to the First Four tournament, law enforcement arrested 35 people for prostitution-related crimes. This year the sheriff’s office hopes to send a message in hopes they never come back.
The department plans to use “very targeted methods. Which, I am not going to go into a week before the First Four. We’ll just let the traffickers be surprised,” said Folks.
Experts say due to the nature of the recruitment process, many victims don’t identify as victims. Red flags of sex trafficking include drug addiction, different men coming and going from one location, hesitation to talk when approached, and a plethora of cash.
To report sex trafficking, you can call Detective Melanie Phelps with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office at 937-496-7191 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org