There is nothing more nightmarish than the thought of being captured and sold into sex trafficking. It’s a subject that no one wants to think about because it’s downright scary, whether it pertains to you or your loved ones.
One unfortunate girl lived that nightmare.
It was only because of a fluke that she was rescued in time.
The girl was only 15 when she was captured by a trafficker. The two of them were driving through Lucas County, Ohio when a highway patrol officer named Mitch Ross stopped them. Ross just wanted to issue a failure to move citation. But what he found was much more frightening.
We can’t always put a finger on why something bothers us.
Sometimes, it’s just a feeling. Ross definitely got a feeling about the young passenger in the car.
The driver, Juan Carlos Morales-Pedraza, hadn’t yielded to a flashing light. It’s usually a minor issue, but Ross decided to stop him all the same. Neither Morales-Pedraza nor his passenger spoke English, so Ross called a translator.
The translator agreed there was something worrying about the entire situation.
“I’d hate to release her to a dude that’s 35 and her not be 18,” said Ross on dash cam footage. “That’s like, my big concern. Other than that, we can just drop them off.”
At last, they were able to get the girl alone. Away from her abductor, she told them that she was 15 years old and that Morales-Pedraza had sexually assaulted her, taking her from her home in New Jersey. He planned to drop her off in a sex trafficking ring in Chicago.
Morales-Pedraza is now in prison and has been charged with rape and trafficking.
As for his victim, she has been returned home and has received medical care.
While sex trafficking isn’t anything new, it’s a serious problem in the United States. Ohio, where Morales-Pedraza was apprehended, is a hub of trafficking. This is because it has several major highways running through the state.
In 2017, almost 9,000 reports of human trafficking were made to Polaris, the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
But the real numbers are actually much higher. Many instances of trafficking are not reported.
“The data from the 10,615 victim records give insight into the systems and tactics that traffickers use to conduct their business,” reads the Polaris website. “Traffickers frequently prey on an individual’s vulnerabilities, and the data spotlights factors that may have placed these victims at risk.”
The website lists factors such as migration, homelessness, substance use, mental health issues, and child welfare as risks linked to trafficking. In Ohio, an initiative for crimes against children is in the works.
Thankfully, Officer Ross’s quick thinking saved the day for one young girl.
However, sex trafficking is still a big problem around the United States and the world. If you think you have seen evidence of trafficking, contact the police or the National Human Trafficking Hotline. You could very well save someone’s life.
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