(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Attorney General Mike DeWine recognized Human Trafficking Awareness Day today by calling on Ohioans to report any information they might have about human trafficking to BCI by calling 1-855-BCI-OHIO (224-6446).
"Human trafficking is devastating. It scars young lives permanently," said Attorney General DeWine, who this morning joined state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) in opening remarks for activities at the Statehouse. "Today, I want to use the bully pulpit of the Attorney General's Office to make an appeal to the public. We need your help. We need you to give us tips."
The scope of the problem is staggering:
- By some estimates, human trafficking is a $32 billion a year international enterprise;
- Over 100,000 children in the United States, alone, are thought to be involved in the sex trade;
- A recent Ohio study suggests that nearly half of confirmed human trafficking cases involve victims under 18 years old; and
- Most of the girls engaged in sex trafficking begin between the ages of 12 and 14.
Warning signs to watch for include:
- If you are going into a nail salon, for example, look for sleeping bags that indicate employees are living in the same place where they work and that backrooms appear to be living space. You might notice workers at this salon are driven to the store in groups all at once.
- When a worker answers casual questions, those answers seem scripted or rehearsed.
- Workers may appear exceptionally young or fearful or particularly submissive.
- If you are staying in a hotel or if you work at a hotel, you might see an older male checking in with a young female or females. You might see a young girl refer to that older man as her boyfriend or as "daddy," sometimes street slang for pimp. Look for a tattoo of a man's name, a slang name, or "daddy" on the girl's neck, leg, or shoulder.
• Does the guest have multiple cell phones, laptops, iPads, etc.?
- Are the guests at the hotel frequent customers on weekends, but have a local address and identification?
"Whether you are at a nail salon or a hotel or a laundromat or the bus station or the shopping mall, look for signs and then call us," said Attorney General DeWine. "Call BCI. Call our tip-line. We are here to help. Our number at BCI is -- 1-855-BCI-OHIO (1-855-224-6446)."
Today's awareness day is the latest in a series of steps the state is taking against human trafficking. Last August, for example, Attorney General DeWine convened the Human Trafficking Commission. It was formed to continue the work started by the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, which was established by the Ohio General Assembly and had completed its statutory directives.
The commission includes elected and appointed officials, members of local, state, and federal law enforcement, public and private social agencies, religious groups, and schools who meet regularly to understand the extent of the problem in Ohio, ways to help victims, and how to investigate and prosecute traffickers. The commission's next meeting is on Feb. 8.
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Mark Moretti: 614-466-3840