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Billboards bring attention to human trafficking in Cleveland

Posted at 8:43 PM, Sep 29, 2016

There is a powerful message Clevelanders have been seeing about human trafficking recently.

The problem is so serious, there is a coordinated response team doing everything it can to get the word out. You have probably seen the Happens Here Too billboards all around the greater Cleveland area, the folks behind the message hope people take the message seriously.

"Kind of caught my attention when it said happens here too… And I was like,'what is happening?' Then I saw 'sold for sex' and I was like OK maybe they're talking about human trafficking and then that's what it said," said Xavier Maxon.

Maxon works in marketing and passes by this billboard every day on his Lorain Road route.

"A lot of people don't know about it, so it's good that they have billboards like that to bring it to everybody's attention," said Maxon.

He sees the signs all over; not just on billboards. 

"I see them on the side of buses and things like that too," said Maxon.

"People say I see the signs I recognize the signs," said Karen Walsh, president, Collaborative to End Human Trafficking.

She is the person behind the signs. 

"They are on the inside as well as the outside of the RTA buses. They're also in each of the concourses at Cleveland Hopkins international airport," said Walsh.

She tells News 5 the reason is simple. Human trafficking, which is involuntary servitude, is happening in Northeast Ohio, and folks need to know about it.

"It's a global problem, it's a national problem, and it's happening right here in Northeast Ohio," said Walsh.

Walsh hopes folks will pay attention to the website, HappensHereToo.org.Here, people can find resources about what human trafficking is, and what to do if they recognize a victim.

"It's a human rights issue. No one should be denied their fundamental right to freedom," said Walsh.