Ohio report targets human trafficking

Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI -- About 3,000 advertisements for sex services in the Cincinnati area were logged on a single online classifieds site over a three-month period, a figure that represents a "significant demand" that's helping drive human sex trafficking, according to a report released Friday.

The report, issued by the Cleveland-based nonprofit Imagine Foundation, examines the patterns of commercial sex in the Cincinnati region in an effort to better understand and fight sex trafficking, since the two are closely linked.

"We need to know the depth and breadth of the situation, we need to know how many and where, and unfortunately when it comes to sex trafficking, there isn't that quantitative element," said the foundation's director, Jesse Bach, who was in Cincinnati on Friday discussing the report's findings with the FBI and other agencies.

The report's findings mirrored other observations by the Imagine Foundation in other cities, including Cleveland and parts of Iowa.

That includes data showing that the sex trade largely operates in cities along major interstates, with the median price for services at $150 an hour.

The report concludes that to help fight sex trafficking, law enforcement agencies need to focus more of their attention on the primary consumer of sex services, adult men, and the public needs to better understand the signs of sex trafficking.

"Now, people tend to think it happens in faraway places, like Bangkok, Thailand and Cambodia," Bach said. "They never want to think it's happening in their own backyard ... People need to get over that feeling" so they recognize human trafficking when they see it and report it.

"When it comes down to it, we all have to do something about it, not just shift the burden to law enforcement," he said.

Bach said his group wants to conduct similar studies in every major city in Ohio in the next few years.

Meanwhile Gov. John Kasich's office announced Thursday that the state would partner with libraries, highway rest areas, clinics and facilities overseen by state agencies to increase awareness about human trafficking.

Kasich's office said the goal is to educate people on how to recognize the sings of human trafficking, how to report it and how to direct victims to services and treatment.

For instance, the Ohio Turnpike Commission plans to place posters in its service plazas. Posters will be sent to about 730 Ohio libraries, and the state's public safety agency will make 5,000 posters available to people.

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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