COLUMBUS — The number of investigations into suspected trafficking swelled last year to the highest level in Ohio’s history
Ohio’s state attorney general’s Human Trafficking Commission released a report on Monday that revealing police investigated 202 potential cases of human trafficking in 2017, up nearly 50 percent from the year before. The vast majority involved the sex trade.
But the number of arrests decreased to 70, the lowest since 2013 as reported a Toledo news agency The Blade.
“You may have investigations in one year, and then you may have a conviction in another year,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine. “I still believe that human trafficking convictions are being grossly underreported because, frankly, they’re not charging human trafficking. They’re charging something else.”
He said ultimately it doesn’t matter whether the suspect is prosecuted for the specific crime of “trafficking in persons.”
“The most important thing is the victim be saved and not have to exist under those circumstances,” Mr. DeWine said. “The second thing is the person is punished and segregated from society so that they won’t do this again.”
208 people were identified as potential victims. They were most likely to be female, white, and between the ages of 21 and 29. Thirty-eight people were minors under the age of 18. Two were 13 or younger.
The Suspected Traffickers:
221 suspected traffickers, all but 10 of them believed to be engaged in the sex trade. Ten were involved in forced labor. The traffickers were most likely to be male, black, and between the ages of 21 and 29. Four were minors themselves.
257 people identified as customers of the trafficking were overwhelmingly male, white, and between the ages of 41 and 59. Most of them, 183, were suspected of buying sex while 74 were consumers of forced labor.
Mr. DeWine said Ohio’s opioid addiction crisis and human trafficking go hand in hand. “Drugs are used to control,” he said. “Because opioids are so addictive, it makes it easier for a pimp, makes it easier for a human-trafficker to control a victim. They control a victim’s income, money, but they also control the drugs. The drugs are the most powerful.”
Ohio has been at the forefront of research and law enforcement since a federal sting in 2005 in Harrisburg, Pa., put Toledo on the map with cities like Miami and Las Vegas as major recruiting hubs for the sex trade. Statistically, 177 women and girls were caught up in that sting, 77 of the females were from the Toledo area.
COLUMBUS (AP) – Tuesday, Federal Judge Dan Polster urged participants on all sides of the lawsuits against drugmakers and distributors to work toward a common goal of reducing overdose deaths. He stated that the lawsuits have come to his court “because other branches of the government have punted it”.
The judge currently oversees more than 180 lawsuits against drugmakers brought by local communities across the country; including those from Ohio. The Judge said that he believes everyone from drugmakers to doctors to individuals bear some responsibility for the crisis and haven’t done enough to stop it.
During a hearing in his Cleveland courtroom, Polster stated, “What we have got to do is dramatically reduce the number of pills that are out there and make sure that the pills that are out there are being used properly. Because we all know that a whole lot of them have gone walking, with devastating results.”
In 2016, the government registered 63,600 overdose drug deaths – another record. The vast majority of deaths involved prescription opioids, namely OxyContin, Vicodin, or related illicit drugs such as fentanyl and heroin. The epidemic shows little sign of abating. Hundreds of lawsuits filed by county and municipal governments could end up as part of a consolidated federal case overseen by Judge Polster, while others are unlikely to consolidate.
Some government bodies, including Ohio and at least 9 other states, are suing the industry in state courts. Additionally, most states have united in an investigation of the industry that could spark a settlement or even more litigation against the industry. Among the drugmakers targeted; Allergan, Purdue Pharma, and Johnson & Johnson. Also targeted are three large distributors; Amerisource Bergen, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, and McKesson. All parties named in these and other lawsuits have said that they don’t believe that litigation is the answer but have pledged to help solve the crisis.
Judge Polster likened this epidemic to the 1918 flu which killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, while pointing out the key difference. “This is 100 percent man-made. I’m pretty ashamed that this has occured while I’ve been around.”
In July, 10 year old Alton Banks died of fentanyl poisoning in Florida. He walked 10 blocks from the community pool to his home. He vomited, collapsed, and died.
In Montgomery County: Two toddlers overdosed on opioids and died.
In Cleveland: An officer was hospitalized after coming into contact with what is believed to be fentanyl while executing a search warrant.
In East Liverpool: A police officer required four doses of naloxone after he accidentally came into contact with fentanyl.
In Massillon: Three nurses were treated with naloxone after aiding an overdose patient.
In Florida: A drug-sniffing K-9 was rushed to an animal hospital after he was exposed to fentanyl during a drug raid with law enforcement.
A person doesn’t have to be an opioid abuser to be injured or killed by the drug. Children and first responders are among those at risk of injury or death from accidental exposure. Fatal Doses: The individual’s size, body chemistry, tolerance, and general health can all play a role into whether a dose is lethal. Obviously, the same amount would affect a child differently than an adult who has a history of abusing opiates.Heroin: 30 milligrams — or a little less than a half a pack of sugar — can be deadly.
Fentanyl: “Just 2 milligrams — an equivalent to about 32 grains of salt — can be enough to kill a person”, said Jessica Toms, a laboratory supervisor at the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Investigation (BCI). Fentanyl is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Carfentanil: “About 20 micrograms — less than a grain of salt — can be a lethal dose for a human”, Toms said. “Carfentanil is so strong that it is used to sedate elephants.”
“The drugs can be absorbed into the skin”, Toms said, “but inhalation can kill faster. It is all about how much of the substance makes it into the bloodstream, and how quickly it can get there. For someone abusing drugs, injection is going to be the fastest and most dangerous route. But for someone who is exposed to it, inhalation of the substance is going to likely be the fastest route.”
“Both absorption through the skin and ingestion require that the substance be absorbed through multiple layers of skin or organ tissue prior to entering the bloodstream, this ultimately takes longer,” Toms said. “However, mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) will be faster as these areas of your skin are thinner and were naturally designed to absorb materials.”
To avoid accidental exposure, law enforcement should exercise caution and be aware of how they are handling items at crime scenes.
Last July, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned law enforcement agencies to reconsider testing drugs on the scene because of the danger involved. “Field testing is not a good idea,” he said. “The risk is too high.” DeWine urged BCI’s Criminal Intelligence Unit to put out a series of law enforcement bulletins to make sure officers are informed about opioids and the dangers of handling them.
If testing must be performed, officers should wear proper protective equipment and test in an open, well-ventilated space, she said. Officers should be aware of what they are touching while wearing their gloves as to avoid creating an exposure incident after their gloves have been removed.
“Lastly, we recommend that suspected drug evidence be packaged in plastic to prevent the substances from spilling or leaking,” Toms said.
In case of exposure, an officer should wash his or her hands and immediately seek medical assistance.
Signs of opioid exposure include respiratory depression; pinpoint pupils; vomiting; loss of consciousness; choking or gurgling; slow or absent pulse; bluish, clammy skin; and limpness.
Teachers representing 100+ middle and high schools in Miami Valley were trained in human trafficking last year as part of the new “School Trafficking Outreach Program”.
According to the director of Abolition Ohio and interim executive director of the human rights center at the University of Dayton, Tony Talbot, this was the first time training of this kind took place for one full year.
Through the program, educators are instructed on how to present sensitive information to students, and how to identify and deal with trauma triggers.
“We still have room to keep growing and growing,” Talbot said. “It’s intensive because you can’t just turn over the materials and give a classroom presentation because a kid might come forward and … if the school’s not prepared on how to respond, you’re going to cause more harm than good.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine listed trafficking education as focus area in his 2016 annual report. According to the report, 151 potential victims of human trafficking were identified and more than a third were 20 years old or younger.
Supporting the initiative, the School Trafficking Outreach Program received a nearly $15,000 grant from the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, another several thousand dollars from the University of Dayton, and $1,500 from the Free to Run Foundation, Talbot said.
“Human trafficking is a major issue that happens here [in Ohio],” Talbot said. “It happens in cities; it happens in suburbs; it happens in rural area and it affects our youth.”
In 2016 alone, Ohio law enforcement reported 135 human trafficking investigations yielding 79 arrests and 28 criminal convictions.
As defined in the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the legal definition of “trafficking in persons” is:
Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.
The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
In 2012, Ohio passed legislation guiding the identification of victims of trafficking in persons and guiding the prosecution of traffickers and purchasers of commercial sex from minors. The table below provides summary data on those cases from Ohio’s agencies and partners.
State Data Sources:
The Ohio Network of Child Advocacy Centers (ONCAC) provides support, education, and networking opportunities to enhance Ohio’s response to child abuse, including minors who are victims of human trafficking. Within a children’s advocacy center, agencies and professionals work together to reduce the trauma young victims experience and to enhance the system’s ability to respond to child maltreatment. Through a grant partnership with the Governor’s Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, ONCAC began reporting identified cases of human trafficking in July 2013. The data are reported quarterly to meet state and federal grant requirements. Since the grant partnership began in July of 2013, 262 victims of human trafficking have been identified by Ohio’s children advocacy centers. In 2016, ONCAC reported identification of 70 victims of human trafficking.
The Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) is the case management system utilized by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, along with 88 county public children services agencies, to assist staff in managing workloads and provide current data. Human trafficking reporting was integrated into the system in November 2013. In 2016, 37 records of human trafficking were identified, as reported by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services – Refugee Services Section (ODJFS Refugee Services) operates as part of a national and international effort to assist people displaced from their countries. The Refugee Services Section also serves victims of human trafficking certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with reporting beginning in 2008. In 2016, ODJFS Refugee Services did not serve any victims of human trafficking.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office collects data from local law enforcement related to human trafficking investigations, arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers. As required by Ohio’s “Safe Harbor” Law enacted in 2012, law enforcement must report the number of human trafficking cases identified annually to the Ohio Attorney General’s office (ORC 109.66). In 2016, local law enforcement identified 151 (potential and confirmed) victims of human trafficking.
The Combating Trafficking in Persons in Ohio (CTIPOhio) grant program, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides assistance to foreign national victims of human trafficking in Ohio. Through a grant partnership with the Office of Criminal Justice Services, The Salvation Army of Central Ohio/Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition, The Salvation Army of Greater Cincinnati/End Slavery Cincinnati, and Lutheran Social Services/Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, and additional outreach partners, the program identified 18 victims in 2016.
Data Limitations – Ohio has made notable progress in data collection efforts since HB 262 passed in 2012. However, given the relative newness of state laws (and awareness of the federal law) and well-documented complexities resulting in underreporting and identification of trafficking victims, there is much work to be done in reliably determining the prevalence of the crime both in Ohio and the United States. The data compiled in the table is the first step in creating a statewide overview of the number of victims identified and referred for services in local communities. It is critical to note that the numbers reported in Table 1 should not be aggregated across different sources as there are likely instances in which a single individual is being served by multiple agencies.
Even the most precious children are capable of committing heinous crimes. And while parents may be willing to do nearly anything to protect their children, police do not have to allow parents to be present during an interrogation. The best thing a parent can do for a child facing a police investigation or criminal charges is to hire a qualified juvenile justice attorney.
In fact, when conducting certain investigations, such as those involving abuse, or neglect, by a parent, officers usually question a child privately to avoid parental coercion. While parents can tell their child to refuse to speak with police investigating a crime, refusing investigators from Child Protective Services might result in some serious consequences.
What are the constitutional rights of juveniles?
Children have the same protections as adults, and may even have more protection since their age makes them more vulnerable. Historically, courts have ruled that children are entitled to being Mirandized, and may even be entitled to an earlier and more detailed Miranda warning than adults.
But, apart from identifying themselves, children do not have to talk to police at all. The constitution provides them with the right to remain silent, and children also have the right to have an attorney present during questioning.
Parental permission to speak with the police.
Parents often get upset when they learn that their child was questioned by police officers without their expressed permission. Juvenile justice varies from state to state, but most jurisdictions require parents be notified when a child is detained, and others will ask for parental consent before questioning a minor, even though doing so is not constitutionally required.
Typically, law enforcement officers will attempt to contact parents for the sake of health and safety, as there may be important information for officers to know about, such as a severe peanut allergy. Also, parents can unwittingly provide helpful information to officers.
Many older adolescents and teenagers may be more inclined to speak to officers if parents are not notified. It should be noted that officers are under no obligation to tell the truth concerning parental notification. Further, teens should understand that giving up your right to remain silent can be a very dangerous choice without consulting your own attorney. A parent cannot represent their child in the criminal justice system.