Cleveland - Since its inception in December 2016, the Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force has recovered 85 victims of human trafficking, ranging in age from 12 to 66. During the same period, 227 victims were interviewed and referred for recovery services.
“Human trafficking is a terrible crime; it’s happening here, in our own communities and neighborhoods. We cannot let it continue,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. “I’m committed to making sure every relevant County agency is equipped to recognize the signs of human trafficking and is ready to act.”
The Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, an interagency cooperative led by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, is the front line of Cuyahoga County’s comprehensive strategy to address human trafficking.
“In combatting human trafficking, no one agency or organization can do it alone,” said Detective James Mackey of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department. “Cuyahoga County has made a substantial investment in the Task Force, but we also actively partner with other governmental organizations and law enforcement agencies, non-profit organizations, and local agencies and businesses. We’re building a coordinated and comprehensive plan to address human trafficking and keep our children safe.”
Working hand-in-hand with the Sheriff’s Department, the County’s Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) also plays a critical role in the fight against human trafficking. The agencies work together to investigate suspected cases involving children and coordinate to provide protection for child victims.
“It’s an unfortunate reality that many victims of human trafficking are children,” said DCFS Director Cynthia Weiskittel. “Whether we’re dealing with suspected victims or victims recovered by law enforcement, it’s our responsibility to fully assess the situation and do whatever it takes to make sure these children are safe, healthy, and on their way to recovery.”
To this end, DCFS has established an official, detailed protocol for managing cases where human trafficking is involved or suspected. The protocol provides step-by-step instructions for all DCFS workers, to ensure that each case is managed with expertise and efficiency, no matter the circumstances.
Both DCFS and the Sheriff’s Department participate in Greater Cleveland’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking, an initiative of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking. The initiative is a multi-disciplinary group working together to develop a comprehensive and coordinated response to human trafficking in northeast Ohio.
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