This week, CQ Press came out with its list of the most dangerous U.S. cities. The findings are based on a study of FBI crime statistics. We were curious to know: how do the crime numbers match up with rates of human trafficking? It turns out, there is not too much overlap—with one exception: Ohio. Last August, Polaris Project released its 2010 human trafficking state ratings, which featured the "Dirty Dozen"—twelve U.S. states yet to enact basic anti-human trafficking policies and services. They were: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Of the dirty dozen states, Ohio was the only one represented in the most dangerous U.S. cities list. Three Ohio cities—Cleveland, Dayton and Cincinnati—cracked the top 25.
Coincidence? Perhaps not. Ohio is one of just a handful of U.S. states without a law that criminalizes human trafficking.
Other factors make Ohio a hot bed for modern-day slavery. According to a 2008 report released by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO), the state is vulnerable to trafficking because it is home to major inter-state highways, has a growing immigrant population, high rates poverty and homeless children, and is near the Canada border. The FBI has identified Toledo, Ohio as one of the top hubs of underage recruitment into commercial sex.
Ohio’s high rate of homeless children is of particular concern. Experts estimate that 90% of runaway children become embroiled in the commercial sex industry. In a study released by the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1 out of 26 Ohio children “do not know where they will get their next meal.” The same study ranked Ohio the 31st worst state in terms of addressing childhood homelessness. There is overwhelming evidence that Ohio is in dire need of ramping up policies and services to combat human trafficking. But the state’s Senate President Bill Harris doesn’t see the urgency in addressing the scourge of modern day slavery. Harris wants to close the 128th General Assembly without addressing Senate Bill 235, an important bill that could, at long last, criminalize human trafficking in Ohio.
If Senator Harris follows through with his intention of cutting the current legislative session, a new anti-trafficking bill will have to be introduced again in January. As one reporter said, this "would mean starting over."
Senator Harris may see the benefit in breaking early. But for the thousands of children and adult trafficked into Ohio every year, there is no time to waste. Sign the petition below to urge Senator Harris to keep Senate Bill 235 on the agenda.