COLUMBUS — During a recent meeting of the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced two new efforts underway in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to assist human trafficking victims and prevent victimization of high-risk youth.
“Human traffickers look for a very specific type of person to victimize, and oftentimes they set their sights on children who are young and have a history of running away from home,” said Attorney General DeWine. “In an effort to prevent the victimization of these children, I have asked my office’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to begin regularly analyzing the Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse in order to proactively identify kids who may be vulnerable to traffickers.”
The Ohio Missing Children Clearinghouse is a central repository for statistics and information about missing children in Ohio.
Criminal intelligence analysts with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s (BCI) Missing Persons Unit will regularly examine database reports to look for indicators that signify that a child could be vulnerable to – or already involved with – a human trafficker. BCI will then alert local law enforcement when a child in their community has been identified as high-risk.
“It is my hope that law enforcement will then reach out to these children and intervene in their lives before a trafficker can,” said Attorney General DeWine. “I believe that, by showing these children that Ohio’s law enforcement officers truly care, we can reduce the number of children who are victimized in Ohio.”
Special agents with BCI’s Crimes Against Children Unit will also be available to assist local law enforcement, human trafficking coalitions, and service agencies in developing plans to help at-risk children. Agents can also be called upon to assist in human trafficking investigations. In addition, four free, regional training courses for law enforcement will be offered by BCI in 2017 to help officers identify and assist at-risk youth.
Attorney General DeWine also announced today that he is awarding a grant of $128,148 to Amethyst Inc. to provide safe and stable housing for human trafficking victims in central Ohio.
The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant will primarily pay for rent and utilities for 12 apartments that will be specifically dedicated to victims of human trafficking who are referred to Amethyst from Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Paul Herbert’s Changing Actions to Change Habits (CATCH) Court.
CATCH Court is designed to help women who have been charged with offenses such as prostitution and solicitation if the defendant is a human trafficking victim. The victims participate in an intensive two-year program that helps them reclaim their lives, and upon graduation, charges are dismissed.
“Safe, stable housing is critically important for these victims because, without it, they may feel like they have no other options but to go back to their traffickers,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Thanks to this grant, these women will not have to worry about where they will sleep at night, and they can fully concentrate on improving their lives.”
The 12 apartments are located in Columbus and will be fully furnished so that the CATCH Court participants can immediately feel at home and achieve a sense of stability.
During today’s meeting, Attorney General DeWine also released the 2016 Human Trafficking Commission Annual Report, which includes statistics submitted by local law enforcement agencies regarding human trafficking investigations statewide in 2016.