Police in Columbus, Ohio, are being trained to approach sex trafficking victims in a different way. A new vice unit is being mobilized and empowered using the Police And Community Together Team (PACT). Part of this training includes working with prostitutes or other sex workers in a way that is mindful of the dynamics of sex trafficking. Leading with professionalism and compassion is a practice based on the idea that many women in these industries are not there willingly. This shift in mindset aims to rescue or rehabilitate these women, rather than prosecute and incarcerate them.

The program will see 90 possible members of this PACT trained to address complaints, reports and other incidents with this new mindset and tactics. Advocating for, rather than working against, the needs of men and women who are victims of sex trafficking could be a powerful way of setting them free from a life they don’t want.

Problems With the Former Vice Unit

The ideological shift occurred after the previous Columbus vice unit was subject to FBI scrutiny after arresting a porn actress named Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) when she was performing at a strip club in Columbus. At the time, the actress had a lawsuit against President Trump, raising questions regarding officer motivation. In August 2018, another vice officer shot and killed a woman on the street in an alleged prostitution investigation. Accusations of vice corruption and police brutality in the department precipitated a change in many practices, including the way human trafficking victims are addressed.

Sex Trafficking in Ohio

According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office annual report on human trafficking in Ohio, Ohio human trafficking statistics include the fact that:

  • 242 human trafficking investigations were carried out in 2018, resulting in 80 arrests and 61 criminal convictions
  • 199 potential victims of human trafficking were reported in 2018
  • 187 potential victims were female and 11 were male, with one having no gender specified
  • There were 65 potential female victims between the ages of 21 and 29

These numbers represent a real challenge to law enforcement officials in Columbus and throughout the country.

According to the State Department, there are several ways both citizens and law enforcement officials can help issues surrounding human trafficking:

  • Learn the signs of human trafficking and take advantage of specialized training to identify these signs
  • Report any suspected incidents of trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888
  • Support anti-trafficking work in your local community
  • Learn about state and federal legislation and support bills that will work against human trafficking
  • Engage in and raise awareness
  • Support trafficking survivors through hiring, skills training and community opportunities

The vice department in Columbus is setting a valuable example for a compassionate and proactive mentality toward victims of sex trafficking. In many instances, sex trafficking and prostitution are linked to drug use and addictionThe Recovery Village Columbus offers rehab and mental health services to men and women who are seeking recovery. Call today to learn more about comprehensive treatment programs.


Ohio Human Trafficking Commission. “2018 Human Trafficking Annual Report.” Ohio Attorney General’s Office, 2018. Accessed September 22, 2019.

U.S. Department of State. “15 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking.” N.D. Accessed September 22, 2019.

Woods, Jim. “Columbus police disbands vice unit in wa[…]FBI, internal probes.” The Columbus Dispatch, March 20, 2019. Accessed September 22, 2019.

Zachariah, Holly. “Columbus police get training on dealing […]-trafficking victims.” The Columbus Dispatch, August 28, 2019. Accessed September 22, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.