CLEVELAND — Human trafficking has been an ongoing issue in Ohio and across the U.S. for several years. According to the Ohio Attorney General's Office, Ohio ranks among the 10 worst in the nation.
In the office's 2020 General Report on human trafficking, it said, despite COVID-19 challenges, the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, rescued 103 human trafficking victims and referred almost 216 others to services in 2020. In addition, the Human Tracking Initiative group doubled down on their efforts to educate community members and parents about the risks of human trafficking and screen time.
Lawmakers are also also pushing for legislation to combat the problem.
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced two bipartisan bills that would enhance the ability to combat the rise of human trafficking: the Countering Human Trafficking Act and the DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act.
“Human trafficking should not be happening in Ohio or our nation. The bipartisan Countering Human Trafficking Act and the bipartisan DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act advance a whole of government approach to give law enforcement the resources they need to combat it and hold those involved accountable for their actions,” said Sen. Portman in a media release. “As founder and co-chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, I have led efforts in the Senate to combat human trafficking and I will continue to work to ensure that no more women or children become victims of this terrible crime.”
Under the two bills, the following action would be taken:
- Make permanent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT)
- Increase coordination between DHS components and the Blue Campaign, a national public awareness effort designed to educate law enforcement and the public to recognize human trafficking
At the local level, community member Noami Stiles is doing her part to fight human trafficking. She works with the A21 campaign, a global initiative to fight and end human trafficking.
"It reaches every state, every country, every neighborhood in multiple different ways," said Stiles. "We want people to be aware that that is going on and that there are people who are fighting against it and bringing awareness to it. We want to see people freed... not only globally but in our own city and in our own county."
Stiles said people need to be aware that the problem is all around us.
"These are people who have had their humanity and dignity stolen from them," she said. "I want to see that restored."