COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) - On the eve of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, it is a time to reflect on how Ohio has come to protect its citizens and look ahead to how the state will expand its efforts in 2013.
Ohio's Human Trafficking Commission says it is a multi-billion dollar a year enterprise. It forces the most vulnerable of people into modern day slavery.
Ohio cites a study that says 13-year old children are the most common target of traffickers. Let's put that into perspective. A 13-year old child is typically in the eighth grade. The Centers for Disease Control says these teens start to make more of their own decisions about friends and interests.
That same Ohio study says 49-percent of the 207 children studied were under 18 when they were victimized. Nationally, over 100,000 children are thought to be involved in the sex trade.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the Human Trafficking Annual Report Thursday. It outlines efforts made by the Ohio Attorney General's Office in 2012 to better protect Ohioans against the threat of human trafficking.
"Human trafficking is a horrendous crime that preys upon the most vulnerable among us, often targeting our children," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "I am proud of the progress made throughout Ohio this year that has helped bring more awareness to the human trafficking issue."
The Human Trafficking Commission worked to end trafficking through several initiatives in 2012 including passage of the Safe Harbor Law. The law increases penalties for adults who profit from underaged prostitution. It also helps teenagers avoid any prosecution and get the help they need.
Other initiatives in 2012 include:
. 2012 Law Enforcement Human Trafficking Summit
. Human trafficking webinars
. 2012 Domestic Sex Trafficking in Ohio Report
. Medical protocols and triage research
. Demand reduction efforts
"Though Ohio has made great progress in the fight against human trafficking in 2012, there is still much work to be done to address this issue in the coming year," said DeWine.
Plans for 2013 include new legislative initiatives, an expanded focus on labor trafficking in Ohio, and new outreach and victims services efforts.
The Human Trafficking Commission will also release a report on Ohio's "John Schools," and the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) will begin to track and compile human trafficking violation data as required by the Safe Harbor Law.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed each year on January 11.
Visit the Ohio Attorney General's web page for more on human trafficking.
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