Report: Hundreds Forced Into Labor, Sex in Ohio

Matt Leingang, San Francisco Chronicle, February 10, 2010

About 1,000 American-born children are forced into the sex trade in Ohio every year and about 800 immigrants are sexually exploited and pushed into sweatshop-type jobs, a new report on human trafficking in the state said Wednesday.

Ohio’s weak laws on human trafficking, its growing demand for cheap labor and its proximity to the Canadian border are key contributors to the illegal activity, according to a report by the Trafficking in Persons Study Commission.

“Ohio is not only a destination place for foreign-born trafficking victims, but it’s also a recruitment place,” said Celia Williamson, an associate professor at the University of Toledo who led the research.

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Nationwide, between 45,000 and 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States, according to a 2001 report by the U.S. State Department. {snip}

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Also, Toronto’s airport is an arrival destination for international victims who are trafficked in Canada and transported to other cities, helping make Toledo, about 55 miles southwest of Windsor, Ontario, rank fourth in the U.S. in terms of arrests, investigations and rescue of domestic child-sex victims, the report said.

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A federal investigation into a child prostitution ring in Harrisburg, Pa., exposed Toledo as a center for the trade in 2005. Nine local girls were sold as sex slaves as part of the ring, and at least 12 of the 31 people charged had ties to Toledo.

Ohio does not have a stand-alone human trafficking law. Instead, it allows prosecutors to attach a human trafficking specification to related crimes that increase prison sentences–just as penalties are more severe if a crime involves a firearm.

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