COLUMBUS — Undercover agents with the Ohio Highway Patrol have a new assignment in addition to their regular duties — spotting and preventing human trafficking.

Agents in the patrol’s Ohio Investigative Unit are being trained to identify possible human trafficking victims at bars, truck stops and other places where they’re already investigating crimes. When agents determine someone may be working against his or her will, they will then connect that person with local programs and resources.

“If you have your eyes on what’s happening, you may prevent somebody from being taken and abused and have long term ramifications of their life,” Gov. John Kasich told a handful of agents at a Monday news conference announcing the initiative.

The patrol employs about 85 undercover agents to investigate liquor, tobacco and food stamp violations. Their work often takes them to illegal “after hours” clubs that serve alcohol without liquor licenses and truck stops, where they might encounter someone forced or manipulated into sex work or other labor.


Staff report