By Dave Duchak
Human trafficking is widely known as a modern day form of slavery and is increasingly becoming more present in communities across the state of Ohio. Miami County deputies are trained to detect the circumstances and environments in which human trafficking flourish. Human traffickers exploit and victimize vulnerable populations. Ohio has been deemed to be susceptible due its having large cities as well as rural communities, which have large transient and immigrant populations.
Human trafficking is most commonly associated with forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. The victims of human trafficking are predominantly women and girls. Organized crime plays a significant role in human trafficking. Often beginning as a voluntary action, human trafficking evolves into recruitment, transport, and control of an individual. The criminal act not only involves human trafficking of an individual, but also a demand of exorbitant fees to transport a person and create fraudulent passport documents. Once the person arrives in the United States, the organized crime members remain in control of the victim and usually force the person into prostitution or forced labor. Labor trafficking often occurs in the midst of otherwise lawful industries, decreasing the number of encounters between law enforcement and offenders, which makes victim detection and identification more difficult. Labor trafficking victims, including victims of domestic servitude, can be exploited in isolated homes, fields or factories, with few opportunities to come into contact with customers or other outsiders.
Recognition of key indicators of human trafficking is the first step of identifying victims. Victims will be disconnected from family and friends, fearful and timid, show signs of mental or physical abuse, display symptoms of being denied proper nutrition and medical care, and living in unsuitable conditions. Victims will be in the company of someone in which they immediately defer or who otherwise seem to be in control of their actions. The person will control their coming and going and will limit their movements. Victims will often lack personal possessions and appear not to have stable living conditions.
The Miami County Sheriff’s Office is committed to detection, investigation, and bringing offenders of human trafficking to justice. A detective has been detailed to receive specialized training with respect to human trafficking investigations. All deputies have received training in detection and recognition of human trafficking indicators they may encounter as part of performing their routine duties. It is imperative that cities, villages, and townships have tough and enforceable zoning restrictions, which are critical to keeping those types of businesses prone to utilize human trafficking out of our communities.
Human trafficking is a growing crime that pervades our communities. The general public can play a key role in fighting human trafficking by reporting suspicious circumstances to law enforcement. Tips regarding human trafficking can be left on the Miami County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at (937) 440-3990 or at www.miamicountyohio.gov/sheriff.