Northeast Ohio experts report more must be done to prevent human trafficking

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - Northeast Ohio experts held an awareness seminar to help prevent human trafficking in front of a packed gymnasium at Strongsville Middle School, telling the audience more must be done to stop the growing problem.

Human trafficking victim and awareness advocate Theresa Flores was a keynote speaker at the event, and told News 5 human trafficking is an issue in suburbs across Ohio.

"I ended up getting date raped and drugged and then blackmailed for two years starting at the age of 15," said Flores.

"Nobody is exempt from this happening to them, we just have to get better at seeing the signs."

Flores has written four books on the issue and has started her own organization in helping to spread awareness.

Recent statistics from the Polaris Project indicate Ohio is now 4th in the nation when it comes to human trafficking, going from 89 reported cases in 2012, to 375 reported cases in 2016.

Karen Walsh, CEO of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, told News 5 more awareness training in recognizing human trafficking is needed for everyone.

"Systems need to be trained — hotels, restaurants, taxis, RTA drivers, schools and hospitals," said Walsh.

Jeff Ellis and the Rotary Club of Strongsville set up the event and told News 5 he hopes to set-up more awareness meetings here in Northeast Ohio in the coming months.

"So our hope is that this is not the end, that this is not just a one-time event," said Ellis.


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