Human trafficking a serious issue in Toledo area
By Chelsea Fisher
Earlier this year in Toledo at a truck stop, a driver made a call that saved lives.
The truck driver called 911 and alerted them that two girls were going in and out of several trucks, looking extremely distraught. Not only were the two girls only 14 and 15, but they were also victims kidnapping. That one call from one trucker saved nine young girls, arrested 31 offenders, and shut down a 13 state trafficking ring according to the Citizens for Community Values.
Human trafficking is the modern-day practice of slavery. It crosses lines of socioeconomics, race, age, and gender. Anyone can be trafficked.
“Anyone is at risk, I don’t know if I could identify one type of person who is more at risk than the other,” said Kizzy Williams, a local expert on human trafficking from Second Chance. Second Chance is a local nonprofit that empowers women and girls to find their own voice and regain choice their lives.
Toledo is the fourth worst city in the country for human trafficking and Ohio fifth worst state according to Citizens for Community Values. They also say the average age of victims is 10-17. Approximately 80 percent of victims are female, with 70 percent of those females trafficked into the commercial sex industry. Trafficked persons are forced or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry worldwide.
Sex trafficking the most lucrative of the trade in people, it involves prostitution, pornography, bride trafficking, and sexual abuse of children. In 2013, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, operated by Polaris, received multiple reports of human trafficking cases in all 50 states and Washington D.C.
A misconception about human trafficking is that it is the same thing as human smuggling. It is not. There’s a huge difference, although each are crimes in the United States. Smuggling involves undocumented/illegal immigrants into the United States; human trafficking involves commercial sex acts, labor or services that are induced through force, fraud, or coercion, regardless of whether or not transportation occurs.
In central Ohio, late last year and early this year, there were allegations of different criminal activity involving sex trafficking in several massage parlors, including Amsun Massage in Powell, Amsun Massage in Worthington, Rainbow Massage in Columbus, and a private residence in Columbus. Several people were arrested.
According to the Ohio Attorney General, drugs, the Internet, and elements of force, fraud, or coercion as the three largest categories that traffickers used to recruit their victims.
Ms. Williams explains people can lower risk of trafficking by educating themselves, family, and community to the issue, and how to respond to it. It is not something you can ignore.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.