By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
COLUMBUS (AP) — The number of Ohio human trafficking cases reported to a national hotline has risen sharply, according to a report that says the state is now fourth in call volume.
Ohio ranked 11th in calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2012 and jumped to fourth two years ago, according to the most recent call data included in the report from Republican Gov. John Kasich’s human trafficking task force.
The numbers only capture cases reported to the hotline, not all trafficking incidents. As a result, the data reflect increased awareness about the issue but not necessarily the full scope of the problem, said Elizabeth Ranade Janis, anti-trafficking coordinator for the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
While the good news is that Ohio is reaching more victims and punishing more traffickers, the data also reveal a hidden population that will require more efforts to help, Janis said in the introduction to the report, released late Thursday.
“Ohio’s progress in combating trafficking is both exciting and sobering,” she said.
State anti-trafficking groups providing data for the report said they handled 445 cases of people identified as human trafficking victims in the first half of 2016.
Some of the cases could involve the same victims, but at least 130 cases were new individuals, according to the report.
Among other highlights:
— From July 2013 to September 2016, Ohio children’s advocacy centers identified 251 children and young adults as trafficking victims and referred them for services.
— Research from a three-year, $440,070 federal grant awarded to Ohio in 2014 has identified or helped 114 foreign national victims of sex and labor trafficking in Ohio to date, with victims from several countries.
— New screening tools for inmates entering Ohio prisons identified 213 potential trafficking victims in the adult prison system in 2015 and 2016 and 22 sex and labor trafficking victims in the youth system.