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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Human trafficking increasing during COVID-19 pandemic

Cuyahoga County officials says the investigations of human trafficking are ramping up during the pandemic.

CLEVELAND — Human trafficking is a billion dollar industry that often gets overlooked. The billboards in Cleveland say, "It happens here too," and many people might be wondering where and how?

With the loss of jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, Erinn Stark with the National Council of Jewish Women said people are looking for other ways to make money and traffickers target the most vulnerable people at any age.

Annette Mango is a survivor of sex trafficking and said it began because of the drug choices she was making, which turned into prostituting, then led to a much darker path. She would meet men at hotel rooms and eventually they started to sell her to drug dealers and truck drivers. "I had to do what they wanted me to do, when they wanted me to do it, said Mango. The men would beat and rape her and that wasn't the life she was supposed to be living.

Cuyahoga County detective John Morgan said trafficking cases have increased during the pandemic and the investigations have ramped up.

Men and women are advertising themselves on websites using fake names. Other users can comment on a thread and rate the women they bought for the day and what street they were on.

Morgan said kids are getting bored, learning remotely and browsing webpages and that trafficking should be taught in schools. Annette said the schools don't think it's important enough to teach in schools and said it happens there too.

"For those who definitely deserve it, I think they should spend as much time behind bars as possible," said Morgan when asked about perpatrators during a virtual seminar.

Annette said she has been away from that dark lifestyle for six wonderful years now.

"You have to want it, you have to ask for it, I promise there's help, said Annette.