A missing children’s crisis has engulfed the state of Ohio, as more than 1,000 kids have gone missing this year. Ohio is struggling to keep up with a concerning surge of missing minors that has totaled over 1,072 this year after an alarming total of 1,600 last year.
The missing children’s issue exploded in May when nearly 30 children in northeast Ohio went missing in the first two weeks of the month, the New York Post reported. The newspaper reported that Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy said, “There’s always peaks and valleys with missing persons, but this year it seems like an extraordinary year.”
Attorney General David Yost said,
“I am fearful of all kinds of things that fall through the cracks that include missing children,” the attorney general added. “I rely on the tenacity of a worried parent more than I do a harried bureaucrat whose job it is to put data into a computer.”
Yost said the state is now working with the University of Toledo to create an improved statewide data collection and reporting system. For now, the attorney general said reporting deficiencies and even search efforts are impacted by what News 4 worded as “under-resourced law enforcement.”
“Law enforcement can’t be everywhere and can’t see everything,” Yost said. “We rely on the people, the population because we have 11.7 million pairs of eyes out there that can keep an eye out.”
Could it be human trafficking?
From Safe Harbor Ohio
No one knows for certain how bad Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is in the Buckeye State, and there are no solid statistics regarding prevalence. DMST is an under-reported, underground crime. The data on the subject is hard to obtain and often just a snapshot in time, or particular to a specific region.
The hard numbers we do have for each state — suspected cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline — reflect population size, local awareness and training. The four biggest states rank the highest, with California, Texas, Florida, and New York recording the highest number of cases, ranking first through fourth along with their population size.
The exception is the state of Ohio. Ohio is ranked seventh in population, but we rank fifth for the number of reported cases. Is that a reflection of more awareness and training or is our child trafficking problem disproportionate to the size of our population?
Child Sex Trafficking in the US
- The average age a girl is lured or forced into sex trafficking is just 15 years old. — National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
- 83% of victims in confirmed sex-trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. citizens. — US Justice Department
- Online forms of sex trafficking increased by more than 45% during the COVID-19 pandemic. — Polaris Project
- Online forms of sex trafficking are more likely to involve minors (55% vs 24%) and males (15% vs 7%) and are less likely to be reported by someone with direct knowledge of the situation (50% vs 70%), according to 2 years worth of data from Polaris-operated National Human Trafficking Hotline Number.
- There are less than 600 beds available nationwide for child sex trafficking survivors’ long-term recovery from trauma. — US Justice Department & TEGNA Stations research
- There are less than 600 beds available nationwide for child sex trafficking survivors, but we have over 13,000 animal shelters. — The Humane Society / US Justice Department
- In 2020, of the nearly 26,500 missing children reported to NCMEC who have run away, 1 in 6 were likely victims of child sex trafficking. — National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- 16% of the children who ran from the care of social services and were reported missing to NCMEC in 2019, were likely victims of child sex trafficking. — National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- 27% of sex trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline number were instances of familial trafficking. — Polaris Project, 2018 Fact Sheet
- In a 2018 survey of child sex trafficking victims, 55% of respondents reported being in school while they were being trafficked. — Thorn, Survivor Insights
- In the same 2018 survey, 45% of respondents identified as Black or African American. — Thorn, Survivor Insights
- 40% of confirmed sex trafficking victims from 2008-2010 were Black or African American. — US Justice Department, 2011 Report
Global Child Sex Trafficking
- Child sex trafficking is the fastest-growing crime in the world. — United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
- It was estimated in 2014 that sex traffickers raked in about $99 billion a year in profits. — International Labour Organization
- About 21 million people are victims of forced labor and 4.5 million are trapped in the commercial sex trade. An estimated 900,000 to 1.2 million of those victims of commercial sexual exploitation are children. — International Labour Organization
Child Sex Trafficking Defined
Human trafficking is not the same thing a human smuggling. Human smuggling is a crime against a country, where a smuggler is paid to sneak a person across a country’s borders. Human trafficking is a crime against a person, and as defined by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit. All around the world, men, women and children are exploited for both labor and sex.
Paraphrasing the US Justice Dept: Most people think of “trafficking” as involving movement across state or international borders. However, US federal law does not require proof that either the defendant or victim crossed state or international lines. When the victim is a minor, federal does not require proof that the defendant used force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion, or any combination of those means, to cause the minor to engage in a commercial sex act. Advocates commonly use two acronyms for child sex trafficking:
Federal and state laws make it illegal to make that child engage in any kind of sexual activity in exchange for anything of value, whether it be money, goods, personal benefit, in-kind favors, or some other kind of benefit, like a safe place to stay for the night.
Federal law also states that child survivors of sex trafficking must treated as victims and not criminals. Still there are a handful of states that can still charge minors with prostitution, including Ohio. To her credit, Ohio State Sen. Teresa Fedor is on a mission to change that.
According to the Justice Department:
“Child sex trafficking victims are often not recognized as victims and may be arrested and jailed. The dangers faced by these children—from the traffickers, their associates, and from customers—are severe. These children become hardened by the treacherous environment in which they must learn to survive. As such, they do not always outwardly present as sympathetic victims. They also frequently suffer from short–term and long–term psychological effects such as depression, self-hatred, and feelings of hopelessness. These child victims also need specialized services that are not widely available given they often have illnesses, drug addictions, physical and sexual trauma, lack of viable family and community ties, and total dependence—physical and psychological—on their abusers.”