Cleveland hotels fight human trafficking during All-Star Game

Reports to the National Human Trafficking Hotline from Ohio led to the identification of just over 500 victims in 2017.

Spotting the signs of human trafficking

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Hotels are preparing for the thousands of fans making their way to Cleveland for the MLB All-Star Game.

However, employees are also on the lookout for human trafficking.

Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for reported human trafficking cases.

Hotels are stepping up to fight the problem as thousands of baseball fans come to Cleveland.

“We are the front line against human trafficking,” said Joe Savarise, executive director of the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association.

They helped train hotel employees before the Republican National Convention three years ago.

“We learned from it, we added to it and evolved it and in those interceding few years I think we have developed a deeper model that is more focused and more consistent,” Savarise said.

Spot the signs

So if you're a guest at a hotel, what can you do?

Look for the signs of possible victims:

  • Not carrying much luggage
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Someone else holds their ID and money
  • Doesn’t know what city he or she is in
  • Is not allowed to speak for him or herself

If you're suspicious, go to a hotel employee.

They're trained to take the next steps and call police.

You can read more about recognizing the signs of human trafficking by the Polaris Project.

If you spot the signs of human trafficking, alert a hotel employee or law enforcement.
If you spot the signs of human trafficking, alert a hotel employee or law enforcement. (Source: FBI)

There’s an app for that

There's something else you can do to fight human trafficking.

It's as simple as downloading an app and taking some photos of your hotel room on your phone.

Those pictures can help police figure out where a victim is being trafficked and get her help.

Traffickers often post photos of victims in hotel rooms on social media.

A cell phone app called TraffickCam creates a database of hotel room images for detectives to search.

“As far as apps, there's different technology we use on our side to help maximize our efforts. Any type of activity like that is a value add for us,” said Sgt. Jim Mackey, director of the Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.

He said there is no one “type” of victim.

“Human traffickers are predators, and they'll take advantage of somebody. Because at the end of the day, the only thing the trafficker is concerned about is money. And they'll use and abuse people to get that money,” Mackey said.

The Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force has recovered 85 victims of human trafficking since it started in December 2016.

Those survivors range in age from 12 to 66 years old.

Helping survivors

Once human trafficking survivors are found, people like Keyna Smith step in to help.

“What we know at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is it’s difficult for that survivor to take that first step. So being there to support them as a soft landing, whatever support they need, if it’s housing, we’re there, to say hey, we understand that this happened and we believe you,” she said.

Human trafficking didn't start with the All-Star game, and it won't stop after the ballpark's lights go off.

“One agency cannot do it all, we are partners in this and we're hoping to end this fight,” Smith said.

In 2017, reports to the National Human Trafficking Hotline from Ohio led to the identification of just over 500 victims and nearly 230 traffickers.

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