CLE preps for jump in sex crimes during RNC

Posted at 6:51 AM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 06:51:17-05

With the Republican National Convention less than six months away, local groups and law enforcement say they are preparing for a jump in sex crimes during the event.

“Sex trafficking happens in our town everyday," said Sondra Miller, the CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. "When there are thousands of more people in town, we can expect the activity to increase.”

How much of an increase is unknown.

"It's not a well-reported crime because of the fear and distrust," said Karen Walsh, director of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking.

Walsh heads up the Greater Cleveland's Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking, which is made up of 19 social service organizations and law enforcement agencies. It began in 2014, in part because of the convention coming to Cleveland.

"Personnel need to be able to recognize the signs so victims are identified," added Walsh.

The coordinated response effort is training local hotel staff to know the potential signs of human trafficking and how to report it. That includes looking at tattoos, recognizing signs of abuse and listening to how a man addresses a girl or woman.

"We’re going to be prepared for more calls during the convention,” said Miller whose center runs a hotline for victims.

The center plans to increase the hotline staff during that time.

“Our unit will be very active," said Vicki Anderson, spokeswoman for the Cleveland division of the FBI.

Anderson said the bureau has a plan in place for the event that involves working with agents across the state and country to keep a close eye on what's happening behind closed doors.

“We have sources, we really rely on the public a lot to give us information," she said.

“A lot of people may just brush this off and think that these are consenting adults engaging in prostitution," added Miller. "We have seen from people coming through our doors that this is a highly traumatized group.”