Attorney General Yost outlined the progress his office made during 2020 – reviewing arrests, rescues, prosecutions as well as the education and legislation efforts designed to achieve the goal “where no one is bought or sold in Ohio.”
One statewide anti-human trafficking effort – Autumn Hope –netted 109 rescues of human trafficking victims, cleared 76 cases involving missing and exploited children, arrested 22 individuals for arranging sex with minors, seized 157 men charged with solicitation and other crimes.
Throughout 2020, high profile arrests were made in cases involving a Cuyahoga Count religious leader, a Portsmouth attorney, a human trafficking ring leader in Youngstown, and a Columbus man charged with 19 felonies.
At the beginning of the year the inaugural Hope in Action Summit drew 600 people, with a focus on linking people and resources to strengthen the statewide fight against trafficking. In the Tuesday communication, Yost announced the 2021 event which is scheduled for January 14, 2021 – registration is currently open.
“As part of our offices’ initiatives to strengthen the laws around human trafficking, we reached out to the General Assembly to introduce multiple ideas on how to increase the tools we have available to combat human trafficking. The passage of House Bill 431 is one of those successes that highlighted the ideas brought before the legislature,” wrote Yost.
House Bill 431 which was sponsored by Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) passed the Senate on December 17 and the House on December 22.
The Ohio Star reached out to Governor DeWine’s Press Secretary Dan Tierney to find out if the governor intends to sign the bill into law.
Tierney responded “[W]e are conducting a legal review of the bill. I expect a formal statement next week.”
According to the press release the bill, if passed:
- Expands protections for human trafficking victims under the age of 18. Prosecutors are no longer required to demonstrate fraud, force or coercion for 16- and 17-year-old victims of human trafficking.
- Creates the offense of engaging in prostitution, prohibiting a person from recklessly inducing, enticing or procuring another person to engage in sexual activity for hire.
- Increases the penalty for engaging in prostitution to a first-degree misdemeanor with a requirement that the offender attend an educational program or treatment program and pay a fine of up to $1,500.
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