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MARIETTA, Ohio. (WTAP) – A new human trafficking task force conducted its first-ever search warrant this past week.

The Southeastern Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force is less than a month old and its goal isn’t just about going after traffickers…

Task Force Assistant Commander Kelly McGilton said, “So I think our goal on the large spectrum of things is going to be – obviously we want to combat human trafficking. The other part is we really want to be advocates for victims involved.”

The task force is partnering with multiple different victim services groups, the main one being Eve Incorporated.

McGilton explained, “We have Eve on board to help us provide services to those victims, whether it’s legal services, addiction services, counseling, mental health treatment, housing, transportation…,”

Education is another important component of the plan. This will extend to kids, young adults, and beyond.

McGilton said, “We also are going to be implementing a program for the college students because we feel that there are so many college students who are here that are left vulnerable because they’re without their families, there are financial struggles, some of them have a newfound use for alcohol or drugs…,”

The new task force didn’t come out of the blue. McGilton said it will fill a large gap in resources.

“The entire southeastern border of Ohio has zero services for human trafficking on the victim side or the law enforcement side.”

There is one human trafficking resources coalition in Washington County but it’s just now getting off the ground, according to McGilton.

She believes the influx of resources will uncover that human trafficking is a bigger issue in southeastern Ohio than we realize.

“I do feel like it’s going to be an eye-opener for a lot of people.”

McGilton added that trafficking in southeastern Ohio often isn’t what people think of when they imagine human trafficking.

“…, where in this area we may have more of the parents who are sadly selling their children for sex to obtain drugs, or money, or any other type of services that they would want to inquire.”

There can also be labor trafficking.

McGilton said a big misconception about human trafficking is that people believe it deals with kidnapping people and taking them across borders, which is called “smuggling,” not “trafficking.”

It’s an issue that can be confusing for victims as well.

“We see where a lot of – even the victims don’t realize they’re being trafficked,” McGilton said.

This can surface in multiple different situations…,

“If they’re in a relationship, it starts out, you know, the person will groom them and wine and dine them and they feel like they’re in it and then they’ll start asking for favors and the favors could be providing a sexual service to somebody for money and they feel like ‘okay I’m helping them out, they need money, this is going on,’ and then they just get so wrapped up in it and they can’t get out.”

Confusion can also come up when people addicted to drugs are trafficked.

“…, or if it’s on the addiction side – that they feel that it’s because they’re getting something out of it. You know, they’re getting, whether it be the drugs – so they feel that they’re in charge of themselves when they’re really not,” McGilton explained.

The task force covers Washington, Noble, Morgan, Monroe, Meigs, and Athens counties.

If you want to contact the task force, you can call the listed counties’ dispatches or you can leave an anonymous tip on the Washington County sheriff’s website.

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