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COLUMBUS, OH (Toledo News Now) -
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the Human Trafficking Annual Report, which outlines efforts made by the Ohio Attorney General's Office in 2012, to better protect Ohioans against the threat of human trafficking.
"Human trafficking is a horrendous crime that preys upon the most vulnerable among us, often targeting our children," said DeWine. "I am proud of the progress made throughout Ohio this year that has helped bring more awareness to the human trafficking issue."
Officials hope for new legislative initiatives, an expanded focus on labor trafficking in Ohio, and new outreach and victims services efforts in 2013.
The Human Trafficking Commission will also release a report on Ohio's "John Schools," and the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation will begin to track and compile human trafficking violation data as required by the Safe Harbor Law.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed each year Jan. 11.
State Representative Teresa Fedor, of Toledo, and the National Association of Social Workers hosted the Fourth Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day at the Columbus Statehouse. Special guests included Gov. John Kasich, Columbus Police Officer Ken Lawson, Dr. Celia Williamson, Michelle Hannan of the Salvation Army, Judges Paul Herbert and Greg Singer, U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart, and Director of the Attorney General's Division of Children's Initiatives Melinda Sykes.
The event's keynote speaker was Linda Smith, former Washington State Representative, former Congresswoman, and founder of Shared Hope International.
Shared Hope International is part of a worldwide effort to eliminate the sexual exploitation of minors. Protected Innocence, a project of Shared Hope International, recently gave Ohio a "C" for its human trafficking legislation, up 12 points from a "D" a year ago.
"We are here today because a lot of good work has been done by a lot of dedicated people," said Rep. Fedor. "Trafficking in Ohio is prolific and hard to detect. Through awareness events like this one, we continue to establish a statewide system to help victims."
Fedor has been organizing Human Trafficking Awareness Days to bring light to the issue. Human trafficking affects more than 1,000 Ohio children every year. More than 3,000 Ohio children are considered to be at high risk.
Fedor has passed several important pieces of legislation aimed at reducing human trafficking, and she will be working on new legislation in the coming year.
People are calling for an end to human trafficking in north Toledo as part of a nationwide campaign that started Friday.
A house of worship called That Neighborhood Church on Ontario Street is hosting a vigil Friday night to support victims and survivors of human trafficking. Organizers say human trafficking is not specific to any particular culture, religion or economic status and affects everybody.
On Friday, there was a nationwide moment of silence at noon. Activities wrap up Saturday with a rally at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Sister Sandy Sherman says there are two things that can be done to prevent human trafficking: contribute to organizations like the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition and pray, like they are doing Friday night.