March Madness provides an economic opportunity that Dayton thrives in. However, there’s a darker and illegal economy that Abolition Ohio hopes to eject from the tournament.
Last season, 27 people were arrested in a human trafficking ring during First Four.
People from all over the country were arrested right here in Dayton.
“We have a big problem here,” said Tony Talbott, the Chair of the Abolition Ohio.
“We also have a really good response. One of the reasons we have so many calls to the tip line is because we have a high level of awareness here,” said Talbott.
Talbott says Ohio has the 5th highest call volume to the human trafficking tip line in the country.
The hotline number is 1-888-3737-888
27 arrests last tournament may seem like a lot. Talbott disagrees.
“There’s a large amount of the crime that occurs. Then a small amount making it through the justice system. Getting arrested. Getting charged and convicted. It’s the tip of the ice berg.”
Talbott says Dayton’s central location with I-75 and I-71 makes it easy for traffickers to use the First Four for their own profit.
“With that increase in demand for commercial sex, there’s an increase in the supply that has to be brought into the area,” said Talbott.
Kristen Johnson is an intern for Abolition Ohio. She’s tracking activity on Craigslist and Backpages.
“I would say going into the weekend there’s been more,” said Johnson.
By more, Johnson means she has seen an uptick in suspicious posts and sex advertising.
“I feel like it makes it more real. We hear about it during our training. Learn about it. I feel like seeing it makes it more real,” said Johnson.
Abolition Ohio has also trained local hotels on red flags so they can be alerted to human trafficking.
“I had about 10 hotels on my list . All of them were relatively receptive. A lot of them are excited about it and want to help and be involved,” said Logan Cobbs of the UD Human Rights Center.
Some Red Flags to watch for:
- Minors that appear to be helpless, ashamed, nervous or disorientated
- Minors that show any sign of abuse
- Minors in the company of a much older man, or in the company of several older men
- Adults loitering in hotel hallways that appear to be “on the lookout”
- Minors of age that cant appear to speak
- Several girls staying at a hotel long term
- Minors with belongings in plastic bags
- Expensive cars at less expensive hotels or motels