Human trafficking reports up

GRAPHIC SUBMITTED This chart from the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force report shows the increase in the number in calls from Ohio to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Statewide efforts to bring human trafficking to the public eye have been successful, as reporting of human trafficking has risen in the past year, a report from the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force stated Friday.

“Awareness is working,” the report stated. “In 2015, Ohio’s call data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline indicated that calls to the hotline from Ohio increased by 32 percent.”

As part of the effort, ads promoting the hotline and highlighting the human trafficking problem have been posted throughout the state, the report stated.

In 2012, the report stated the number of hotline calls was 459. That number rose steadily each year and stood at 1,066 in 2015. Ohio ranked fourth highest for the number of cases reported to the hotline, the report stated.

According to a survey, Ohio’s human trafficking awareness campaign was the leading cause of callers’ knowledge of the hotline.

Seneca County Sheriff Bill Eckelberry echoed the report’s findings, saying increased awareness has helped law enforcement fight Ohio’s trafficking problem.

“People calling in a reporting suspicious activity in that way does help,” he said. “I believe that they’re bringing more to the public’s eye so people are more in tune to watch for it and report it.”

Sister Mary Kuhlman, director of Sisters in Shelter, a Tiffin shelter for human trafficking survivors, said the state’s awareness initiative has helped quell Ohio’s human trafficking problem, but it will take efforts from throughout society to stunt human trafficking.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s going to have to come from all venues, from the government to the churches, to encourage people to report so we have kind of a unified task force to do this.”

Eckelberry said to report signs of human trafficking to police right away. As vehicles often are involved, he stressed reporting the type of vehicle, license plate number and how many people were in the vehicle.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is active 24/7 at (888) 373-7888.