I-Team: News Center 7 reporter joins undercover investigators in human trafficking sting

MONTGOMERY COUNTY — As part of this statewide push, Montgomery County debuted its new Miami Valley Human Trafficking Task Force.

“We’re learning just what we figured, is we do have a problem,” Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck told the I-Team’s Molly Koweek.

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News Center 7 was the only crew there as local, state, and federal investigators went under cover in southern Montgomery County to find human traffickers and their victims.

“You always hear that prostitution is a victimless crime. That is not true. There’s not one piece of that that’s true,” Streck said.

He explained, last week’s initiative was his new task force’s first big operation.

“This entire week was focused on trying to bring people who are trafficking individuals to justice,” Streck said.

In Ohio, the Human Trafficking Institute’s data shows the need for such services. There has been a consistent rise in cases since 2008.

“This is such a large issue, that we can do it 24 hours a day, 365 days a week,” Streck said.

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Last week, the I-Team watched as the task force worked to combat human trafficking. Investigators would arrange meetings with people who agree to pay for sex acts and then pose as a john or prostitute to lure them in to a house.

While the I-Team was there, investigators arrested three people.

Streck explained, his new task force is focused on helping the victims.

“When somebody does come and we charge them with prostitution, it’s not going to be ‘shame on you, you’re bad for what you’re doing,’” Streck said. It’s going to be, ‘what’s going on? How did we get here? And how can we help you?’”

The sheriff said that means getting victims resources like working with mental health professionals, reconnecting them with family and friends, and helping with substance abuse issues.

“It’s very hard to get someone to come forward and say ‘no, I have been forced to live this lifestyle,’ because they’re terrified that either they’re going to suffer through withdrawal or one of their family members if going to get hurt,” Streck said.

He explained, while some victims are from the Miami Valley, generally they are from out of the area.

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“Whether it’s a strip club business, escort business, prostitution, all of that, a lot of times what they do is they move them around throughout the country so they don’t become safe and secure where they’re at,” Streck said.

He said human trafficking is happing in all parts of the county.

“The economic status, it doesn’t matter,” Streck said.

What matters, the Sheriff said, is helping the people who need it and using the laws already in place to go after human traffickers.