Various law enforcement and social services recently met at the Cuyahoga County Justice Center in Cleveland to help raise awareness of the crime of human trafficking in Northeast Ohio. The gathering was organized by the Collaborative Initiative to End Human Trafficking, which works to abolish human trafficking and connect victims to the support services they need.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach said, “It puts the question to our community, ‘Do we really, in the United States of America, want to continue to live in a place where modern day slavery exists?’ ” The justice system also needs to be improved to better protect victims. “So many times when victims go through our criminal justice system, we victimize them yet again, and force them to undergo confusing proceedings, often lengthy proceedings where they feel vulnerable,” Dettelbach said.
One of the biggest new tools against human trafficking is House Bill 262, known as the safe harbor law, which was passed in June 2012. The bill revised human trafficking laws in Ohio, including creating new diversion programs for juvenile trafficking victims, making a human trafficking charge a felony with a mandatory prison term of at least 10 years, allow adult trafficking victims’ records to be wiped clean and requiring convicted human traffickers register as sex offenders.
Karen Walsh, director of the collaborative, said more progress has been made on the sex trafficking side of the issue than the labor trafficking side. “That’s something that we still have a significant amount of work to do. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to give you some positive movement on that front,” Walsh said.
Learn more at Matthew Skrajner’s The News-Herald article: Forces join together to end human trafficking in Northeast Ohio.