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Hair salons join in the fight against human trafficking

CLEVELAND  - From curling hair to cracking down on crime.

Janai Hunt is the owner of Prime Hair Studios in Lyndhurst.

She, along with 100,000 other cosmetologists throughout the state of Ohio, are now the latest allies in the fight against human trafficking.

Hunt said, “I went to school, I graduated from the University of Toledo, and I knew then when I was there a few years ago that sex trafficking was very heavy there because it's next to the turnpike, in between Detroit and Cleveland, but I didn't know that it had surfaced here."

And is on the rise.

In Ohio alone, it is estimated that more than 1,000 girls and boys, between the ages of 12 and 17, are involved in the sex trade.

Last year, Ohio’s state cosmetology board approved a requirement that human-trafficking awareness training become a mandatory part of obtaining a cosmetology license.

And part of the training is how to spot potential victims.

Officials say traffickers or so-called pimps may take a victim to a hair salon in order to change their appearance to avoid detection, one of the many red flags.

“There are several things a stylist can look out for, once a client is sitting in their chair; including how that client is dressed, eye contact, and who is paying for the services."

“If they come in with someone much older than them, and they're getting their hair done, they're dressed in evening wear and it's daytime or very seductive clothing then those are definitely red flags."

Renee Jones is the founder of the Renee Jones Empowerment Center.

Located on the west side, its mission is to help the disadvantaged, including helping to get victims of human trafficking off the streets.

Jones is praising this new requirement for hairstylists, to also make salons safe havens for victims..

One salon owner remembers a former client, who may have been a victim.

Chareen Fountain said, "I really didn't understand why she had on this dress, I didn't really notice it until I took the cape off, and she was like oh, I gotta go here and then the guy brought the money in, and that's when I was like, this doesn't look right."

If stylists see anything suspicious, there are things they can do like get a license plate number and call police.

Bottom line, if you want to work in a salon, you must watch a video and take and pass a quiz.

Those already who already have a cosmetology license have until January 2017 to complete the new training.