CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (WTVN) -- The state of Ohio is creating a network of agencies that will help young victims of human trafficking. There are about two-dozen children's advocacy centers around the state that will now be able to provide services, like counseling.
"For the first time people are starting to look at kids through a different lense and see different factors, a commercial exploitive factor, and that becomes trafficking," said Elizabeth Ranade-Janis, Ohio's anti-trafficking coordinator.
She says many times victims of human trafficking appear to have normal lives. They go to school and participate in sports. A report from children advocacy centers in six counties turned up 20 cases where children were victims of human trafficking. That report was filed just three months after training to look for the warning signs.
"We have lots of reason to think, based on research and recent data, that trafficking is absolutely a horrendous crime taking place right here in Ohio," said Ranade-Janis.
The topic really came to the forefront during Gov. John Kasich's second State of the State Address when he delared a "war on human trafficking." Months later two girls from Kentucky were rescued from their captor after one escaped at a northwest Ohio rest area and alerted a staff member. Troopers stopped the semi driver who had kidnapped the girls on I-75 near Piqua.
Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born says being aware of the warning signs is key to helping stop human trafficking. It's something they're seeing all too often in Ohio.
"Ohio's interstate network and our geographic location throughout the United States makes Ohio a key state in anything transportation related whether it's a legitimate business or a criminal enterprise," he said.
The state has already trained about 3,000 people about what to look for in victims.
It is estimated that 1,000 young people in Ohio become victims of human trafficking. Roughly 3,000 are said to be at risk.
As parents, Ranade-Janis says you should talk with yout children and know who they're hanging out with and talking to. She says it's also important for educators, emergency room doctors, and anyone else that interacts with children to know what the warning signs are.
While you might think this is mostly an urban problem, experts say that's not the case. One case of human trafficking involving a child has been investigated so far in Ross County.
"An abduction investigation is bad enough, but if you add to that the human trafficking element there's signs that are there, that are present, that we need to start looking at right off the initial investigation," said Chillicothe Police Officer Bud Lytle who suspects there are likely more victims out there they don't yet know about.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is also helping with the effort to aid young victims. They are pumping $500,000 into the effort to help with costs.