New data released today in the first annual Human Trafficking Statistics Report, compiled by the state’s Human Trafficking Commission, provides reports on human trafficking investigations conducted by local law enforcement agencies across the state.
Ohio’s Safe Harbor Law, also known as House Bill 262, was passed June 27 last year to combat Ohio’s human trafficking plague by harshening penalties for traffickers and offering trafficking victims more resources to heal. Included in the legislation was the mandate that the established task force, the Human Trafficking Commission, collect statistics and reports on human trafficking investigations, cases and arrests, for an annually published report.
The report chronicles 30 different human trafficking investigations, which have resulted in 15 arrests and 17 prosecutions over the past year. Some of the investigations are still ongoing.
Thirty-eight sex trafficking victims were identified by local law enforcement last year, most of whom where identified as white or between the ages of 18 and 29. Only one reported victim was male. That represents just a fraction of the thousands of total Ohioans who fall victim to human trafficking in Ohio each year; around 1,000 Ohio youths and 800 foreign-born were trafficked across Ohio. Thousands more are considered "at risk" of becoming trafficking victims, which makes grand estimates on the total number of actual victims virtually impossible.
Law enforcement officers were also asked to identify possible social and economic vulnerabilities that made certain victims more susceptible to trafficking, which included a history of being oppressed or impoverished and possibly experiencing alcohol and drug dependency issues, although enforcement wasn't able to distinguish whether dependency issues actually made victims more vulnerable or if the experience of being trafficked facilitated dependency problems.
Most traffickers were males between the ages of 21 and 29, according to the data.
In 2010, the state of Ohio was considered among the "worst states" for human trafficking by the Polaris Project, a national organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking. In a 2012 report from Polaris, Ohio was ranked one of the "most improved" states of 2012, thanks to the passage of the Safe Harbor Law.
However, in January, anti-human trafficking organization Shared Hope International gave Ohio a "C" for its human trafficking legislation, up several points from a "D" in 2012.
In Ohio, two high-profile trafficking cases, including that of captor Ariel Castro, who kidnapped three young girls and locked them in a basement for nearly 10 years, and the four Ashland, Ohio, residents who enslaved a mentally disabled woman and her daughter into forced labor, have recently made international headlines.
In Cincinnati, City Council recently approved a four-pronged set of initiatives to battle local issues with human trafficking and prostitution, which are especially prevalent along McMicken Avenue and in the neighborhoods of Camp Washington and Lower Price Hill.
Ohio House Bill 130, which was recently approved unanimously by the Ohio House, would, if passed, further increase penalties for sex-trafficking and prostitution related offenses involving minors and disabled persons and also establish a spousal notification requirement for convicted trafficking and prostitution offenders. It will now move to the Ohio Senate for consideration.