Program to help teen victims of human trafficking

Posted at 7:24 PM, Dec 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-19 19:24:07-05

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that one in six endangered runaways are likely victims of human trafficking. 

In Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, there's the Safe Harbor Docket, a specialized docket to deal with victims of human trafficking.

One 17-year-old victim, who were are not identifying, said she had never been in any trouble until she met a 25-year-old man on social media. "He picked me up from school, we went to his house so we could hang out, then he wouldn't let me leave," said the teenager.

"The vast majority of clients are drawn in through the internet or social media," said Assistant Bailiff Bianca Smith. Smith helped get the Safe Harbor Docket started.

Judge Denise Rini oversees the program in the courtroom. "It doesn't matter if they are wealthy or impoverished, West side or East side, it really has to do with who they hook up with in school or on the internet," said Rini.

So far, about 30 teenagers have been recommended to the program since it started last year. Two have graduated, with more expected to do so shortly.

The program is 90 days but can be extended if more treatment is needed.