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Human trafficking has been taking place in Ohio's two largest cities; Toledo and Columbus with a number of negative consequences resulting from this practise. Human trafficking involves the use of force, intimidation or fraud in order to cause an individual to engage in the act of commercial sex or to participate in forced labor. Primarily, common human trafficking in Toledo and Columbus are of two types; child prostitution and forced labor (RAND Corporation 1). In the United States, federal officials approximate that about eighteen thousand girls and women are trafficked into the country annually for sexual exploitation. More so, estimates indicate that three hundred thousand girls aged as young as eleven years old are prone to be trafficked. The reports show that the act of human trafficking is rapidly growing yet the problem in underreported in Toledo and in other parts of the country. The effects of human trafficking are continuously being experienced both in the inner cities and in the affluent suburbs (Human Rights Watch 164). Although it may seem as though the incidences of human trafficking are fewer in comparison to other crimes, it is affecting the local region of Toledo and other nations involved hence it has triggered international concern.
Human Trafficking in Toledo
The Federal law defines human trafficking as the "transportation, harboring, selling or employment of a person through means of force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of forced servitude". Any individual who is forced or coerced to execute certain services such as prostitution or labor is being trafficked. That is, human trafficking does not necessarily have to involve movement across countries as the use of people as a commodity either within a country or across borders qualifies as human trafficking (Mendelson 40).
In the event where an individual is preyed upon as is the case when homeless young people, runaways and other vulnerable individuals are told that there is an opportunity for a better employment or opportunity, yet that is not the case, the individual has been coerced. Some victims of human trafficking are often told that they will have job opportunities in fields such as photography, modeling, etc and taken to unfamiliar places where physical force may be used to cause them to engage in prostitution (Pierce 1). This is the form of human trafficking undertaken through coercion.
Conversely, the use of fraud in human trafficking involves alteration of legal migration documents of victims in order to make them vulnerable to traffickers. For instance, a number of foreigners enter the United States legally having the appropriate documents but due to their unfamiliarity with U.S. laws and the American environment, they fall victims to human traffickers who rob them of their papers and let the documents expire (RAND Corporation 1). As a result, the victims become illegal or undocumented residents and traffickers take advantage of the situation to keep the victims from either going to the immigration services or to other people who may help them. In such instances, it is difficult for the victims to report because the society ignores the fact that modern day slavery exists and on the other hand, such individuals do not instantly realize that they are victims thus they rarely seek intervention. In other occasions, such individuals are threatened and to avoid endangering those around them and themselves, they avoid making accusations or reporting that they are victims (Pierce 1).
Human trafficking is an issue that is affecting not only Toledo but the world at large. Human trafficking is noted to be the second largest criminal activity globally. In the United States, between fifteen and eighteen thousand people are trafficked each year. In particular, there are an estimated 12 million individuals in the world who are sold as sex slaves every year and this includes about 300,000 children from the United States (Provance 1). The reason for the high rate of human trafficking in the United States in general has been associated with poor human trafficking laws. Human trafficking laws governing Ohio need to be changed if human trafficking situation is to be addressed.
Human trafficking in Toledo is rampant according to reports provided by the federal investigators on child prostitution in 2005. During this time, surveys showed that about nine girls from the local region had been sold out to be used as sex slaves with almost half of the human traffickers involved coming from Toledo. For that reason, it is apparent that human trafficking in Toledo is extensive. Chiefly, human trafficking can include prostitutes found on the streets, in escort services, in clubs, in Asian massage parlors, and in Latino brothels. The forced labor type of human trafficking on the other hand can include illegal immigrants (Johnson, 2010 p.1).
According to statistical evidence, it has been found that Toledo is the second largest region in the United States involved in human trafficking. There are several reasons that have been given to explain the situation in the region. One of the reasons why Toledo has a high rate of human trafficking is because it has a wide range of farmland. This vast land makes it easier for forced migrant labor to take place. In addition, Toledo is close to Detroit, a region known for its high rate of crime. The numerous major highways going in different directions in Ohio augment the possibility of humans being trafficked into other areas or states (Mendelson 40).
Apart from Toledo's proximity to the major highways that connect to Ohio, the area is close to Great Lakes Cities and this has increased the rate of human trafficking in the region. The nearness of Toledo to the Great Lakes cities increases the likelihood recruitment of underage children for sex trade and forced labor (Provance 1). By and large, Toledo is an area with an extensive highway system that makes it easier for it to connect with major cities such as Chicago. Further, the region borders Canada and the human traffickers take advantage of the border to engage in the crime. Organized crime is prevalent in Ohio generally and particularly in regions between Toronto and Cleveland hence human trafficking crimes are not easily traced. Urban poverty together with immense cultural diversity makes Toledo a delivery, destination and shifting region for human trafficking activities (Pierce 1).
Curbing human trafficking in Toledo like in other regions has been difficult. This is because the crime itself is rather invisible hence law enforcement officials have found it difficult to arrest the offenders. The invisibility of human trafficking in Toledo is associated not only with the fear of victims to report such incidences but also because it is not easy to detect sexual or labor activities that involve the use of fraud, force or coercion. To a large extent, law enforcement officials are dependent on victims' reports that are not frequently made thus the crime continues to occur despite the legislation of stringent laws against human trafficking (Johnson, 2010, p.1).
Generally, Toledo has been a hub of human trafficking because the laws that are present do not help eliminate human trafficking. Local politicians have not legislated and implemented effective laws that would ensure that human traffickers are adequately prosecuted. Previous laws have not provided prosecutors with the right tools that they can use to penalize human traffickers. Additionally, the laws have not been specific to deal with human trafficking as a first degree felony and thus traffickers have not been able to offer victims with restitution such as covering housing costs, medical and counseling costs. So, it is the poor political organization in Toledo that has created several loopholes in the region for human trafficking to take place (Ward 1). Poor leadership is what has resulted to insecurity, human smuggling and therefore human trafficking since leaders have not legislated laws that increases recidivism of human trafficking.
Effects on Local Politics
The local politics of Toledo have been affected by the problem of human trafficking in the sense that local government has been made to check and adjust state's laws so as to curb human trafficking on the one hand and to protect Toledo's reputation on the other. Provance (p.1) points out that in the recent past, state lawmakers at Ohio have sent a bill to the governor for the increment of criminal punishments for criminals who engage in human trafficking. This is an indication that human trafficking in Toledo has affected the laws of the region and in turn affected its governance.
Local politicians in Toledo are faced with the task of implementing new bills that would address the issue of human trafficking in the region. Although it may seem easy, it is tasking for the leaders to implement the new bill because the bill comes with its own problems that may make it difficult for the local government to easily pass the bill. For instance, in order for the laws to be implemented, the leaders will be expected to have a specific definition of human trafficking and this may lead to other debates or controversies and consequently delay the implementation of the new law on human trafficking. Therefore, the new bill would have to have a definite definition of human trafficking so as to make it easier for prosecutors to relate each crime with certain penalty (Provance 1).
The local politics do not only have the problem of defining human trafficking and attaching adequate punishments for the crime, but also improving the state's criminal justice system. Despite the fact that the introduction of human trafficking bill received support by both Democrats and Republicans, the prosecutors are faced with the problem of outlining the aspects that comprise of human trafficking. This is attributed to the reason that the elements that comprise human trafficking are noted as illegal according to Ohio laws (Johnson, 2009, p.1).
Furthermore, the local government is faced with the task of creating public awareness on the concept of human trafficking. There are few reported cases of human trafficking especially because a number of victims often get frightened of reporting the crime and some do not have sufficient resources that they can use to get away from sex trade or forced labor. The possibility of the victims escaping from their captors is low and in turn, they are not able to file cases against their captors leading to few reported cases of human trafficking in Ohio. The local government's criminal justice system thus becomes less beneficial to the society in which it was created to benefit. The criminal justice system does not serve its intended purpose (Pierce 1).
Johnson (2010, p.1) reports that the state had to launch measures to curb human trafficking in Toledo whereby a panel involving law enforcement officers, elected officials, social service agencies, educators and other leaders was formed to adjust the state's human trafficking law. Evidently, the problem of human trafficking has increased the need for political leaders to work with other leaders in the region of Toledo in order to find ways through which they can effectively define human trafficking and also make recommendations on measures that can be implemented to address human trafficking in the region through legislation, training, enforcement and education.
The prevalence of human trafficking is then associated with formation of diverse state committees to check on the details of human trafficking. Using data on prostitution and forced labor, state committees have had to seek solutions to human trafficking by first checking on the extent of the problem. Local leaders have had to use data on human trafficking to find the causes of human trafficking and in turn use the causes in finding solutions to human trafficking. Using their political powers, the local government has sponsored research on human trafficking in the area and used the information to legislate and implement new laws and implement new measures that would protect victims of human trafficking while at the same time punishing human traffickers (Pierce 1).
The political situation in Toledo has been influenced by the high rates of human trafficking in the region in that Congress has been forced to make adjustments to a number of regulations, bills or laws. For example, in the year 2000, Congress had to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act as a way of addressing the problem of human trafficking and as a result the local government of Toledo was able to handle human trafficking as a crime (Ward 1). More so, human trafficking incidences have prompted the Justice Department in the region to transfer resources to human trafficking concerns. Specifically, the department has funded research studies undertaken on human trafficking in the area. In that effect, it can be noted that human trafficking has made local politicians or leaders fund human trafficking on the one hand, and legislate and implement new laws in the area so as to reduce and even eliminate modern day slavery in Toledo.
Apart from the local government of Toledo channeling funds to human trafficking, it has been made to develop new ways of helping victims of human trafficking. In the past, the human trafficking issue was not being given much attention. However, the high rates of human trafficking in Toledo have made local government officials provide assistance to these victims through provision of emergency housing especially for teenagers who have been prostituted. This is due to the reason that for a long time, Toledo's local government has concentrated on locking up criminals of human trafficking in the area yet little has been done to help the victims of such crimes (Johnson, 2009, p.1).
The human trafficking problem in Toledo has affected the political priorities of leaders in the region. In particular, Ohio's Senate has been caused to pass human trafficking laws to protect victims of human trafficking and to execute more stringent penalties for human traffickers. For example, early this year, Ohio's Governor Ted Strickland considered the problems that accrue from human trafficking in Toledo and signed the bill against human trafficking into law (Johnson, 2010, p.1).
The creation of new law does not end in senate as the local criminal justice system is also affected. The new law on human trafficking affects Toledo's local criminal justice by affecting the prosecution of human traffickers. The new law on human trafficking grants the prosecutors improved tools that they can use in curbing human trafficking through the enforcement of tougher punishment on concerned offenders (Ward 1). Primarily, it has increased the degree of involvement of local politicians in executing their services to the people. The legislation of the new law on human trafficking is evidently one of the ways that the local government has greatly involved itself with problems affecting the people they are leading. The attempt by the local leaders to support anti human trafficking acts is an indication of their political commitment to the needs of the people of Toledo (Associated Press 1).
Since politics in Toledo is affected by human trafficking activities, the regional economy is affected as well. The effect that human trafficking has on the economy e.g. increasing the need for more security, local crisis hotlines, provision of social services as well as housing to human trafficking victims and others, has affected the political situation in the region. The local government has had to seek more funds in order to accomplish these activities. The involvement in such activities had hindered the local area's engagement in other economical activities that would improve the region's economy further. Therefore, instead of local politicians focusing on other economically constructive activities that would enhance the region's economic status, they shift focus on economically demanding effects of human trafficking in the area (Bales & Soodalter 270).
The problem of human trafficking has caused the local leaders to draw closer to the people. The local government has had to work with several agencies to undertake research on human trafficking in the area making them conversant with local issues and being part of local area's solution to human trafficking. Bales and Soodalter (270) point out that Toledo's local government has in the recent past advocated for stronger anti trafficking legislation and in achieving the laws, it has worked with the local people. The local government of Toledo has engaged community members as a local grassroots effort to deal with human trafficking. In the process of engaging the public, the politics of the region has been improved because the problem of human trafficking has brought the local leaders closer to the people.
Human trafficking is the act of using fraud, coercion or intimidation to cause an individual to get involved in ether prostitution or forced labor. Although human trafficking is a common activity globally, in United States, Ohio is one of the most affected regions. Columbus and Toledo are noted for the rampant cases of human trafficking. This has been associated with cultural diversity, poor human trafficking laws, numerous major highways and closeness to high crime rate region (Detroit). Consequently, the act of human trafficking has affected politics of Toledo by causing politicians to legislate and implement stringent anti human trafficking laws. In addition, it has drawn local leaders closer to the people through engagement of community members in curbing human trafficking. It has also led to the adjustment of the criminal justice system by empowering prosecutors with tools that they can use in addressing human trafficking. By and large, human trafficking in Toledo is a problem that has been hidden for a long period of time but the governor of Ohio has improved the situation by signing the anti human trafficking bill.