Local group targets human trafficking

I-70 and I-75 make area possible stop on sex trade routes.

More than 1,000 Ohio children are victims of human trafficking annually and 3,000 more are at-risk of becoming victims in one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the world, experts say.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, where people profit from the control and exploitation of others, according to Polaris Project, a leading organization in the global fight against human trafficking.

Victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or older who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” as defined by Polaris Project’s website.

“It’s become a very hot topic in law enforcement the last couple years,” said Sgt. Chris Colbert of the Ohio Highway Patrol Dayton post. “People are being exploited, where before it was always looked at as a victimless crime.”

Colbert said the Interstate 70 and Interstate 75 interchange puts the Miami Valley in a prime spot for human trafficking.

Recommended for you

Recommended for you

Recommended for you

Most read

  1. 1 Shelby County Jail inmate dies after fight with another inmate
  2. 2 School Closings and Delays for Dayton, Springfield, Hamilton
  3. 3 REPORT: Smoke fills Dayton Mall store, fire crews on scene

A group of local advocates have joined forces to introduce a public awareness campaign that will be visible on two billboards in Montgomery County this summer, including one on I-75.

“We know that public awareness has a direct correlation with response,” said Elizabeth Ranade-Jani, anti-trafficking coordinator for the Ohio Department of Public Safety. “Trafficking is a hidden crime.”

A digital billboard on I-75 near Stanley Avenue will display the public awareness message more than a thousand times a day, according to a spokesperson for Key Ads.

The advertisement features a young girl’s face with a message reading “sold for sex in Ohio.”

The message also advised that anyone who may be a victim or may be aware of human trafficking in their area to call 911 or 888-373-7888.

The digital message is being funded by the United Methodist Women, an organization dedicated to human trafficking advocacy, among other services.

“This was an issue that United Methodist Women have been on board trying to combat for over 10 years,” said Susan Kelleher, president of the United Methodist Women at Christ United Methodist.

A traditional billboard will be located on the U.S. 35/OH 49 connector near Little Richmond Road.

Between July 2013 and March 2014, the Ohio Network of Children Advocacy Centers identified 51 children who were classified as trafficking victims, according to Ranade-Jani. Five of the children were under the age of six.

Ranade-Jani said victims can come from both urban and rural areas.

In 2012, Gov. John Kasich formed the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force to help use state resources to provide assistance for victims and prosecute the people responsible. Last month, the governor signed into law HB130, which increases the penalties for ‘johns’ soliciting sex from boys or girls younger than 16.

More from Daytondailynews