Columbus -- State officials are launching a new campaign aimed at drawing public attention to human trafficking, with hopes of saving victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.
The Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force is distributing thousands of posters, to be displayed in rest stops, youth services facilities, prisons, halfway houses and other locations.
The placards, developed by The Impact Group in Hudson, include contact information to report human trafficking, and accompanying fact sheets outline potential signs of the crime.
"We may not want to admit it -- it's almost too horrific to imagine -- but the fact is that human trafficking is real and is happening across Ohio," Gov. John Kasich said in a released statement. "Over the past two years we've improved our laws to fight trafficking and begin getting victims the help they need, but we must do more. This incredible effort to coordinate state agencies and provide resources free to the public to increase awareness takes Ohio to the next level in our effort to bring an end to this modern-day form of slavery."
The campaign was unveiled Jan. 6 during the state's annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Lawmakers have moved legislation in recent years to increase criminal penalties and institute mandatory prison sentences against pimps and to offer counseling and better outreach services to victims.
John Born, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said the efforts are having an impact. Last year, 30 state-level investigations were conducted on human trafficking cases, and seven people were convicted of related crimes.
"We want everyone to know that this insidious crime happens throughout our state in rural and urban areas…," said Elizabeth Ranade-Janis, coordinator of state programs that combat human trafficking.
Copies of posters and other materials are available online at humantrafficking.ohio.gov.