The campaign, “Human Trafficking is Ohio’s Tragic Reality,” will place posters in 14 service plazas along the Ohio Turnpike, educate children sentenced to the Ohio Department of Youth Service about signs of human trafficking, and require nursing and pharmacy licensees to review informational materials, said Liz Ranade Janis, Ohio’s coordinator of efforts to fight human trafficking.
About 1,078 Ohioans are sold into sex or labor every year. Despite the efforts of advocates, too few people recognize human trafficking as a problem in their neighborhoods, Ranade Janis said. The posters will inform readers about where to report suspicious activity and where victims can get help.
“The task ahead is great, but I fully believe we have the momentum,” Ranade Janis said.
In 2013, law enforcement officials launched 30 state-level investigations into human trafficking. Seven individuals were prosecuted and convicted, said John Born, Ohio Department of Public Safety director, on Thursday at the fifth Human Trafficking Awareness Day. More than 1,000 law enforcement officers were trained to recognize signs of human trafficking through online courses.
“The strides we’ve made in Ohio are just beginning,” Born said.
Proposed legislation to reduce demand for child sex trafficking by imposing stricter sentences on people who purchase sex should receive hearings in the Senate next week, said state Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering. House Bill 130, sponsored by state Rep. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, passed unopposed out of the House in June.
“Who could have ever imagined we would still be fighting slavery in 2014?” Fedor told attendees of the awareness day. “It’s time to stop blaming the victims of our lack of political will.”
Lehner said she expects the bill will move quickly through the Senate.