CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Republican National Convention is expected to draw more than 50,000 visitors to Cleveland.
Both city leaders and businesses are expecting a financial boom, but all of the cash and crowds are also expected to attract some extremely unsavory criminals.
Human trafficking occurs in all 50 states, including Ohio, but historically spikes in cities hosting large scale events.
“It’s all about money,” said Renee Jones, with the non-profit Renee Jones Empowerment Center; helping rescue and rehabilitate sex trafficking victims. “It’s an opportunity for those already trafficking women and young girls to make lots of money and it’s also an opportunity for them to pick up new victims.”
The women and young girls are generally locked inside hotel rooms for days, and forced to have sex repeatedly with strangers.
Renee has seen victims from every walk of life, and literally every suburb, city and rural community in Northeast Ohio.
Some victims are grabbed off the street, but most are lured from social media sites and acquaintances, especially runaways.
“Trafficking doesn’t discriminate,” said Renee.
Renee works with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, but for the RNC, she has teamed up with several other organizations.
About a year ago they created a coalition of volunteers and experts who will be actively searching for victims and educating people about prevention.
It’s called the collaborative initiative.
"Awareness saves lives," said Renee.
The group has been reaching out to hotels and motels attempting to educate them on the enormous problem of human trafficking; which Renee says happens at both 5 star accommodations and seedy locations.
“It’s important hotels make sure their entire staff is trained from the front desk to cleaning staff,” said Renee.
Trafficking victims won’t usually speak to anyone for fear of being beaten, but Renee says, there are signs in their appearance and body language.
Often they will be noticeably controlled by a much older man, scared, overly submissive, with no identification and untreated health problems and/or physical injuries.
“These traffickers are very violent,” said Renee, “And usually victims are very afraid of them.”
If you suspect trafficking, Renee says you can try to get them alone and speak with them, but at a minimum report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Most importantly Renee says, people need to inform their friends and family members that this is happening and parents absolutely must speak with their children, because once they are gone it's usually for good.
For more information on human trafficking and how to help CLICK HERE.