Big All-Star crowds could draw increase in prostitution

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The All-Star crowds are about to take over the city.  But, while thousands enjoy the festivities all over the region, there is
a dark side to the celebrations.

Officials are keeping a keen eye on the possibility of an uptick in prostitution activity.

"You're bringing in a lot of people from out of town.  The criminal element knows that just as much as we do," said Blue Ash Police Chief Paul Hartinger.

Hartinger and his department are paying close attention to the crowds and out-of-towners filling up hotels.

"Our hotels fill up therefore the prostitutes know that there's money to be made there.  So, they will also visit the hotels," Hartinger told FOX19 NOW.

Hartinger and his officers are trying to stop that cash flow.
"Some of these criminal gangs or groups, even the prostitution groups–they travel.  They know that the MLB game is going on.  They know when it is, and they plan ahead," Hartinger said on Tuesday.  "We have several hotels and properties that are close to the interstate which provides them a great opportunity to stop, do what they have to do, and then they leave."
He plans to increase patrols at hotels and chat with hotel management about what to look for.

"We have talked to some of the hotels.  We talk to all the hotels to warn their guests – don't leave things in the cars, lock your cars at night.  Crime travels.  It can go anywhere.  If you see suspicious activity, let at least the hotel clerks know, or call 911 or call the police," Hartinger said.
Hartinger says his officers will also look online where a lot of hookers are doing business.

"We also go online to find out where they're working, what they're doing.  We are seeing an increase in that activity.  We'll see that when we see a big event like the All-Star Game coming to town," said Hartinger.

Police aren't alone in trying to put a stop to the sex trafficking around this summer's landmark event.

"With events like that, we see an increase in the purchase of commercial sex," said Erin Meyer, who is the Anti-Human Trafficking Program Manager at the Salvation Army.

Meyer, and others, are involved in a program that takes them to hotels to hand out as many as 15,000 bars of soap to get the word out about the issue.  Meyer says they're targeting hotels in the I-275 loop, and have already handed out about half of their stock.

"Every hotel's a little different.  Some they might put it in a lobby bathroom.  Some might put it in the lobby area.  Some, they give it to the housekeeper for the housekeeper's discretion," Meyer said.
The soap is meant for those being trafficked so that when they get a minute alone, perhaps in a hotel bathroom, they can have information at their hands to get help.

"Any community in the United States is not immune, unfortunately, to sex trafficking," Meyer told FOX19 NOW.
On Tuesday, Cincinnati Police announced the opening of an anti-trafficking hotline.  The hotline is staffed 24-hours a day with a trained Vice detective to "evaluate tips and take immediate action" when people call.  CPD says the hotline is operated during major events when the possibility exists for an increase in potential illicit activity.  To report any suspected human trafficking activity, call 513-564-CALL (2255), or the national Anti-Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. 
The CPD hotline will be manned nonstop through July 16.

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