BEAVER TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio State Highway Patrol wants people to know that human trafficking isn’t just happening far away. The crimes are occurring right here at home.
On Wednesday, State Highway Patrol Trooper Rodney Ramps and Motor Carrier Enforcement Supervisor Michael Schneider visited South Range Local School District to warn parents and students in grades seven through 12 about the dangers of human trafficking. They hoped to provide enough information so parents would recognize the warning signs of human trafficking.
Troopers said this is the first time they have done a presentation like this at any school.
“A lot of times, when the State Highway Patrol or any agency gets involved with the human trafficking, we’re getting into it at a point where it’s too late. We’re making the arrest, we’re saving the victim, but we don’t want there to be a victim in the first place,” Ramps said. “By getting into the school system, we know that predators are looking for the girls and the boys who are aged between 11 to 14, so by getting here, we’re hoping to educate the parents, the teachers, the kids themselves.”
Law enforcement has been trying to crack down on the crime. As part of a new campaign, the Ohio State Highway Patrol distributed 180,000 pamphlets detailing the warning signs of human trafficking to truck drivers last year.
Starting in July, truck drivers will have to take a human trafficking course before they get their licenses.
“We’re the crossroads for the United States. If you’re going to the east coast, you come through Ohio. If you’re going to the west coast, you come through Ohio,” Schneider said.
Ohio’s location makes it ideal for human traffickers.
Ohio has ranked as high as fifth in human trafficking cases in the U.S., and more than 1,000 Ohio children become victims, according to the Department of Health.
“We’re number one in the entire nation in terms of truck stops. We’re number five in the entire nation in terms of strip clubs, and typically, they go hand in hand,” Ramps said.
Trafficking can start young. The most common age of victims in Ohio is 13.
Troopers cautioned parents to know what their kids are doing on social media. There are many cases in which traffickers first contact the kids online.
They told parents you can spot a human trafficking victim, who may have bruises or cigarette burns on their wrist or neck. People who are being trafficked may also have barcode tattoos or tattoos of a man’s name, branded by the people trafficking them.
Other ways to recognize the signs of human trafficking include:
- Scripted/rehearsed answers to casual questions
- He or she appears very young and fearful/overly submissive
- A younger female at a hotel with an older male, whom she calls “daddy”
- Someone not allowed to go into public alone or speak for themselves
- Fearful or anxious of law enforcement
- Person is “just visiting” and won’t tell anyone a permanent address
- Person is unsure where they are or able to say where they’ve been recently
- A young person at a truck stop
You can report suspected human trafficking by calling your local police department, to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or by texting BeFree to 233733.
A confidential online reporting form is also available on the Polaris Project’s website.