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.
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.
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.
- PROJECT STAR is a 24/7 hotline for human trafficking from the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center: 855-431-STAR (7827).
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711)|Text 233733
- Polaris Project has more on how hotels are stepping up to fight human trafficking.
- The Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign has tips and resources for hotels to educate employees about human trafficking.
- The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has a Human Trafficking Commission that issues annual reports.
- You can read the Trafficking in Persons Report from the U.S. State Department, released June 2019.