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The Suburbanite
  • Human trafficking — ‘It really is slavery’

  • Human trafficking generates $32 billion a year and as many as 30 million people may be enslaved. As the problem of human trafficking grows, so do awareness and concern.

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  • As the problem of human trafficking grows, so do awareness and concern. Last month, Faith United Methodist Church hosted a program, “Children for Sale: Foreign and Domestic Trafficking in Persons.”
    Amanda Marshall, a former outreach fellow with the Polaris Project and a facilitator with the Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition, said human trafficking generates $32 billion a year and as many as 30 million people may be enslaved.
    “It’s the second-largest industry in the world, and it just makes sense why,” she said.
    “Humans are a reusable resource. You could sell a girl for $100 per sex act, eight to 10 times a day, seven days a week. As long as there are people willing to buy sex, people are willing to sell it.”
    The United States, Marshall said, is both a source of and a destination for trafficking.
    Enforcement is weak, and too often society doesn’t view trafficked people, such as prostitutes, strippers and escorts, as victims. She said college students often host theme parties where people dress as pimps and prostitutes. “They don’t understand this is a horrible crime against humanity.”
    Marshall said that because of its location, Toledo is a hot spot for sex trafficking, which is why it’s not usual to see teenage prostitutes soliciting at truck stops or dancing in one of the city’s numerous strip clubs.
    “Our cities and rural areas fly under the radar,” she said. “The increasing minority population also makes it easier to hide people from other countries.”
    One way to combat trafficking is to follow the money. Frank Meister, a member of Faith UMC, oversees First Merit Bank’s Secrecy Act, anti-money laundering, anti-terrorist financing, identity theft and corporate security programs.
    “The lives of most people in Northeast Ohio doesn’t appear to intersect with slavery, but it does,” he said. “It’s found in meat-packing plants, landscaping companies and restaurants.”
    Meister said banks are required by law to report suspicions of criminal activity. “Large amounts of cash is a red flag for all-around illicit activity,” he said.
    JPMorgan Chase & Co. has developed a program to ferret out customers who may be human traffickers. “They look for transactions that don’t make sense for the business,” he said, “such as money wires overseas, Internet advertisements, (luxury) car leases and large cash deposits near the borders.”
    The risk-vs.-reward aspect of human trafficking is more appealing than dealing in drugs or weapons, Meister said, and a crime such as human smuggling, which results in indentured servitude, still falls under the category of human trafficking.
    “It really is slavery. You can never pay off the debt and are never going to.”