COLUMBUS, OH (WTOL) - Governor Ted Strickland has signed a bill into law Thursday to make human trafficking a stand-alone felony in the second degree.
Senate Bill 235 is Senator Teresa Fedor's (D) final piece of legislation in her two terms as Ohio's 11th District State Senator and is a result of five years of work.
"Human trafficking is thriving in Ohio and today we begin to stop modern-day slavery," said Fedor.
Fedor says Ohio is no longer a safe haven for trafficking and that the gap between the state's criminal code and the reality of human trafficking has been closed.
According to a 2009 Trafficking in Persons Study Commission Report, there are nearly 6,000 youths at risk of being trafficking in Ohio every year.
The practice is present in rural, suburban and urban areas and Ohio is a transit and destination for victims.
Human trafficking is currently the second largest criminal enterprise bringing in an estimated $36 billion a year worldwide for its operators.
However, the crime is largely hidden and difficult for law enforcement to detect as victims are often moved from location to location.
Fedor said the bill sends a message to traffickers that they will face serious charges for exploiting citizens and that Ohio will no longer target victims and ignore those who engage in and finance trafficking.
"To Ohio victims who feel trapped: the circumstance you find yourself in is not your fault," said Fedor. "With the passage of this bill, Ohio is now a place where help is available."
Ohio now joins 44 other states to have a stand-alone felony in compliance with the federal Trafficking in Victims Protection Act (TVPA).