Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013
By ADRIANA CUEVAS
AVON LAKE — Following the federal indictments of an Avon Lake woman and Elyria man for human trafficking, Avon Lake City Council members said that closely ties with the county’s heroin abuse problem.
Councilman David Kos introduced the topic of human trafficking at a recent Avon Lake Safety Committee meeting as well as Monday night’s council meeting.
Kos said his decision to address the issue was brought on by the recent arrests of Lorain County residents charged with human trafficking, including an Avon Lake woman.
“Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar operation that drives the helpless into bondage,” Kos said. “There have been no known cases of human trafficking in the city, but the public still needs to be aware of the signs because communities like Avon Lake are not immune to this problem.”
Kos said he spoke to Avon Lake police officials who confirmed officers receive special training to spot warning signs and detect victims and suspects of human trafficking.
“Runaways, abuse victims, and those struggling with drug addiction are prime examples of targets for human trafficking,” said Kos. “Most times victims of human trafficking tie in with those struggling with drug problems, so it’s something that we need to talk about because the issue most definitely plays into our county’s current struggle with substance abuse.”
Jeremy Mack, 37, of Elyria, and Ashley Onysko, 23, of Avon Lake, were indicted on one count each of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking and drug trafficking and two counts of sex trafficking.
“This pair forced people, including a minor, to have sex for money,” Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said when indictments were issued last month. “These activities happen all around us and it’s the responsibility of the community and law enforcement to work together to end these crimes.”
Mack and Onysko are accused of using narcotics “to gain control over their victims and forced them to engage in sex acts while lining their own pockets with money,” Stephen D. Anthony, special agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office, has said.
According to information from the attorney general’s office, 1,078 children in Ohio are made victims of sexual trafficking each year. Statistics also reveal that 88 percent of human trafficking involves sexual slavery and the most common age for human trafficking in Ohio is 13-years-old.
“It’s alarming to know that children so young often become involved with human trafficking,” Kos said. “It’s a real problem and just shows that we need to keep a watchful eye on the warning signs of human trafficking to prevent our youth from being exposed to it.”
As an additional measure to aid the city’s youth, Kos said Avon Lake School District’s Student Resource Officer Brian Hurd has also received additional safety awareness, drug awareness, and crime prevention training to combat human trafficking. The extra training was provided to Hurd due to his job duties which require him to help students face difficult issues, make good decisions, and act as a liaison between the police department and school administration.
Kos said the Ohio attorney general’s office has made human trafficking a real issue over the years, passing House Bill 262, also known as the Safe Harbor Law, which supplies authorities with new training for human trafficking, sets a mandatory prison term of at least 10 years for human trafficking offenders, and forces those convicted to register as sex offenders.
Those who wish to report instances of human trafficking can do so by calling their local police department or the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at (855) BIC-OHIO.