COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A vicious cycle.
That's how investigators describe human trafficking, after 12 suspected victims were found in an east Columbus home during a warrant search. Police say trafficking is tough to beat because some victims are too afraid to get help, while others don't know where to go.
Whitehall detectives are currently working with prosecutors to build a trafficking case against three people arrested during the search on Thursday, December 6th. Narcotics officers were searching the home as part of a drug investigation, and say they also found heroin in the home along with the women.
“It’s a very complicated process to enforce the human trafficking laws and to prosecute the case because it requires the witnesses, it requires quiet a bit actually,” said Whitehall Police Chief Mike Crispen.
Samantha Miller, 44, Dustin Speakman, 29, and David Dehus, 50, were all arrested and charged with trafficking drugs last week. During the warrant search on Dehus’ home on Ruben Avenue, police found 12 women inside that they identified as possible human trafficking victims after talking with them.
“Heroin and human trafficking they’re connected. So that tip allowed us to potentially save 12 ladies if they take that advice,” said Chief Crispen. “So how big is the problem? It’s historic. It’s been that way for a very long time so it’s very difficult to put a number to it.”
But David Dehus said there’s more to the story. He’s out of jail and told ABC 6 off camera many of the women still live with him at the home and they’re not victims of human trafficking. “A lot of these drug rehab places are full, they can’t get in. They have no place to go, and they can come here and get something to eat, get a shower, and get off the streets," Dehus stated.
His lawyer told him not to speak on camera.
Chief Crispen said all of those women were interviewed the day of the drug bust and police offered them help from the Salvation Army. However it’s up to them is they want to take it.
“For some it is a vicious cycle and for some they have nothing else to go to. Some end up going right back to it and we run right back into them again and we’ll just repeat the process and eventually like the opioid addiction," Crispen said.
Chief Crispen said if any of the three suspects are charged with human trafficking they may face up to 10 years in prison.
Central Ohio has a collaborative response protocol in place to help survivors of human trafficking. Survivors can reach out for help 24/7 by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text BE-FREE. Anyone who calls the hotline from Central Ohio will be quickly forwarded to an on call staff person at The Salvation Army. The hotline staff person will talk with the caller and come up with a plan to meet his or her needs.