CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Dozens of undercover agents in Ohio already investigating alcohol, tobacco and food stamp violations will now train to spot the signs of human trafficking.
Gov. John Kasich's Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force is taking a new approach to fight a big problem. These 80 undercover agents are often already in places like bars where trafficking victims may be taken from.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety says the number of statewide human trafficking cases reported to a national hotline rose sharply this year. Ohio is now the fourth highest state making those calls.
Sister Anne Victory is with the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, based in Cleveland. She says there's more awareness now that human trafficking happens here in Ohio and state laws have changed a lot.
"They're not perfect yet, but they really do look for whether this person is really a victim of a crime, rather than the criminal they used to be identified as," Victory said.
She says undercover agents can spot the signs of human trafficking by seeing behind the scenes of places like bars that others don't have access to.
Next Sister Anne says people like nurses, teachers, bus drivers and hotel workers need to be trained to spot the signs.
"What do you do when you see something? You don't just hide it or say it's none of my business. Because you could be saving a life," she said.
The fight isn't over, but she's encouraged more people are getting behind the cause.
"Nobody should be sold, nobody," Victory said.
Last year, local law enforcement identified about 150 victims of human trafficking in our state.
Ohio enacted the Safe Harbor Law in 2012, which requires police report human trafficking cases to the attorney general's office.
More than 1,300 calls were made from people in Ohio to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2016.
You can call the 24-hour hotline at 1-888-373-7888 if you suspect a case of human trafficking or are a victim yourself.
You can find more resources for human trafficking at the Polaris Project.