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CINCINNATI -- Commercial sex and sex trafficking in the Cincinnati area and Northern Kentucky follow the region's spine on Interstate 75 from Florence, Ky., north to Sharonville, Ohio, before bending west to track I-275 through Springdale and Fairfield and onto I-74 to Batesville, Ind.
That map and concentrations of commercial sex hot spots along the interstates emerged from a three-month investigation into the location of adult services advertised on a website of classified ads. The Cincinnati Enquirer obtained a copy of the report, compiled by the Cleveland-based nonprofit Imagine Foundation, which will be released Friday at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
"This is real," foundation Executive Director Jesse Bach said. "There are women and girls who are being bought and sold for sex in the Cincinnati area."
Bach, whose organization has completed similar investigations in Cleveland and several Iowa cities, contacted the Freedom Center because of its anti-trafficking work to partner on a study of trafficking in this area.
Bach will meet Friday with Freedom Center officials, several regional police agencies and social services organizations working with sex trafficking victims.
"We are going to share more specific information with law enforcement, such as exact phone numbers and places, so they can investigate it if they want to," Bach said Thursday, the same day Ohio Gov. John Kasich's office launched a statewide human trafficking awareness campaign.
Imagine Foundation researchers found 2,965 advertisements for commercial sex within the region from June 1 through Aug. 31 at the website. The ads represented 602 distinctive phone numbers from 104 area codes.
When plotted on a map, the highest-concentration areas followed interstate highways.
"It seems that the interstate does hold a role in the facilitation of commercial sex and sex trafficking," the study reads. "This may be due to the observation that there are often numerous hotels and motels located within close proximity of these areas and the potential to quickly move unwilling victims across city or state lines via the highway system."
• Most of the advertisements for commercial sex on the website (261, or 18.5 percent) were listed on Sundays.
• The price for commercial sex in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, whether the client drove to a specific location or the service was delivered to the customer, was about $150 an hour. Studies of other areas by The Imagine Foundation found that sex services delivered to the customer were normally more expensive.
• Another difference in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky from other areas studied was that a larger number of white people were featured in advertisements for commercial sex. In other areas, Bach said, whites and African-Americans are more evenly represented in the ads. During the three-month study span, 1,966 of the photographs in the ads were white people, 541 were African-American, 77 were Hispanic and 38 were Asian, among other designations.
Bach said that the region must focus more attention on the customer. The "john," whether male or female, must be exposed for seeking to purchase sex from a person being trafficked.
"It's usually just the trafficker or the victim who is shown," he said.
He also suggests that social groups and faith-based organizations, as well as individual citizens, take an active role in combating sex trafficking.
"We see this all the time," Bach said. "There are cars in and out of a house all the time and nobody bothers to report it."
Bach said the study's association with the Freedom Center adds to its stature. The Freedom Center, initially focused on the Underground Railroad and 19th century abolitionism, in 2010 won national and international acclaim for creating the first permanent, museum-quality exhibit examining contemporary slavery, "Invisible: Slavery Today." Contemporary slavery ensnares 12 million to 17 million people worldwide, with practices ranging from forced child labor to sex trafficking of girls and women.
Center officials welcome the affiliation with The Imagine Foundation and its report.
"This is certainly the direction we're going in," said Luke Blocher, Freedom Center Director of National Strategic Initiatives. "We're focused on bringing these voices much more to the forefront and giving them a platform."
Mark Curnutte, The Cincinnati Enquirer