Dayton: A human trafficking hub

Modern day slavery, now known as human trafficking, is happening here in the Dayton area. In fact, some call it a hub because traffickers use the I-70-75 corridor to easily transport woman who have been forced into the sex trade.

"I was young and I was naive, and they made it sound glamorous," said Candace, who is not revealing her last name for her protection. "Now I know I was brainwashed and I was manipulated."

Candace said she was sold for sex, controlled by drugs and paid in drugs.

"We went to hotels to meet people or we did out calls where we went to their house,but nobody came to our house," said Candace. "It was supposed to be a secret, keep us protected."

Her so-called protector, David Nelms, is now serving 12 years in prison. Undercover agents caught him advertising a harem of women online, including Candace. She was eventually arrested, along with her attacker in one of Ohio's first big human trafficking cases.

"I was put through the legal system, just like my trafficker. I face the same charges as my trafficker and then, later, was called a victim," said Candace. "I don't think we're the same. I don't think my trafficker and I are the same."

Candace is now getting help at Safe Harbor House in Springfield.

"It's so easy to be judgmental. Why in the world would they get involved in drugs? Why in the world would they put themselves through that? Why would they choose to be involved in this type of trauma? They're not choosing that. This is a path that is a result, a consequence of things that have happened to them," said Joy Fagan, founder of Safe Harbor House.

Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine said the state's Human Trafficking Commission wants to help create more places like Safe Harbor House where victims can find a safe home and 24/7 treatment.

"It's an Ohio problem and a problem in every state," said Dewine.

Lawmakers are working to up the penalties for traffickers, especially those who coerce minors in to the sex trade. Law enforcement officers are going deeper undercover to catch them and
the buyers.

Kenneth Brandt received 60 years to life in prison for raping his adopted sons and selling one of them for sex to men online. Super Bowl weekend, police arrested Michael Miller at an Englewood hotel for allegedly forcing a woman into prostitution. His arrest was part of a nationwide crackdown.

In Ohio alone, 30 human trafficking investigations yielded 7 convictions last year.

Officials believe education is the key, especially with law enforcement officers. Newly mandated training will teach them the warning signs of human trafficking.

-- Someone who does not have control of their own identification.
-- Someone who appears to be lost.
-- Someone who appears to be under someone else s control.

"I was so broken when I got here a year ago, I couldn't even make eye contact with people, " said Candace.

She is now learning the skills to be in control of her own life.

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