Use of Online Ads to Map Sex Trafficking

Commercial sex and sex trafficking in the Cincinnati area and Northern Kentucky follow the region’s spine on Interstate 75 from Florence, Kentucky north to Sharonville, Ohio, before bending west to track I-275 through Springdale and Fairfield and onto I-74 to Batesville, Indiana.

That map and concentrations of commercial sex hot spots along the interstates emerged from a three-month investigation into the location of adult services advertised on a website of classified ads in The Cincinnati Backpage Report,  compiled by the Cleveland-based nonprofit Imagine Foundation.

Imagine Foundation researchers found 2,965 advertisements for commercial sex within the region from June 1 through August 31 at the website. The ads represented 602 distinctive phone numbers from 104 area codes. When plotted on a map, the highest-concentration areas followed interstate highways.

“It seems that the interstate does hold a role in the facilitation of commercial sex and sex trafficking,” the study reads. “This may be due to the observation that there are often numerous hotels and motels located within close proximity of these areas and the potential to quickly move unwilling victims across city or state lines via the highway system.”

Other findings:

• Most of the advertisements for commercial sex on the website (261, or 18.5 percent) were listed on Sundays.

• The price for commercial sex in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, whether the client drove to a specific location or the service was delivered to the customer, was about $150 an hour. Studies of other areas by The Imagine Foundation found that sex services delivered to the customer were normally more expensive.

• Another difference in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky from other areas studied was that a larger number of white people were featured in advertisements for commercial sex. In other areas, Bach said, whites and African-Americans are more evenly represented in the ads. During the three-month study span, 1,966 of the photographs in the ads were white people, 541 were African-American, 77 were Hispanic and 38 were Asian, among other designations.

Learn more at Mark Curnutte’s USA Today article: Group uses online ads to map sex trafficking.

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