(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today applauded the passage of a bill that will help rescue and protect children who have fallen prey to human traffickers in Ohio.
The bill, which would increase penalties for perpetrators of human trafficking and increase help available for victims, is now on its way to Governor John Kasich for his signature.
"My office has been closely examining the problem of human trafficking in Ohio since last year," said Attorney General DeWine. "It became obvious that we needed stronger legislation in place to fight these traffickers who sexually exploit women and children for their own financial gain."
The bill, sponsored by Representative Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), escalates the penalty for a human trafficking conviction to a minimum of ten years in prison. Penalties for obstruction of justice in trafficking cases will also increase so victims are not subject to further abuse, threats or harassment.
"More than 100,000 children in the United States are thought to be involved in the sex trade, and many of them are caught up in human trafficking when they are as young as 12 years old," said DeWine. "This new law will send a strong message to traffickers in Ohio that the sexual exploitation of Ohio's children will not be tolerated."
Last month the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), along with the Warren Police Department, served eight search warrants in Trumbull County involving possible human trafficking at various massage parlors.
In addition to supporting these efforts, Attorney General DeWine established a Human Trafficking Commission in 2011 which works closely with the governor's Human Trafficking Task Force on the issue.
And through the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy, the Attorney General's Office has also taught more than 7,000 Ohio peace officers how to identify and investigate human trafficking cases.