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DeWine targets human trafficking of children

(January 23, 2017) — The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Missing Persons Unit will regularly examine a database about missing children in Ohio to proactively identify potential human trafficking victims and alert local law enforcement.

The BCI’s Crimes Against Children Unit will offer assistance to local law enforcement, human trafficking coalitions and service agencies in developing plans to help at-risk children who have a history of running away from home, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said at Monday’s Human Trafficking Commission meeting.

“Sometimes that’s all these kids really need: Someone to take the time to listen, and to care and to protect them,” DeWine said. “Once law enforcement finds out why the child keeps running away, they then can develop a plan to help.”

DeWine also announced a $128,148 grant to Amethyst, a program that offers housing and support services to recovering drug- and alcohol-dependent women. The money will primarily pay for rent and utilities for 12 apartments that will house 12 victims of human trafficking referred from Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Paul Herbert’s Changing Actions to Change Habits (CATCH) Court.

“Every CATCH Court lady goes through two years of rehabilitation, which includes weekly sessions with the judge as well as additional social services,” Amethyst’s interim Executive Director Lois Hochstetler said.

“They refer out to treatment centers like Amethyst. We do a combination of drug and alcohol as well as trauma treatment.”

The 2016 human trafficking annual report distributed by DeWine’s office identified “drug/alcohol/other dependency” as the most common risk factor in leading the victim to be trafficked. Those 67 cases were followed by “oppressed, marginalized, and/or impoverished” and “runaway and homeless youth,” in 22 cases each.

DeWine identified education as one area of focus in 2016. His office required all law enforcement to obtain one hour of Continuing Professional Training on human trafficking, which is available to the public online at the Ohio attorney general’s website under human trafficking.

“What we’re really doing with this new initiative is to try to empower local law enforcement agencies,” DeWine said. “To give them the data, the resources, and the training so that they can proactively go out into the community and protect these children.”

Out of 135 human trafficking investigations reported in 2016, 79 people were arrested. One-fifth of the investigations ended in successful criminal convictions. In comparison, law enforcement reported 102 investigations in 2015, leading to 104 arrests and 33 successful criminal convictions.