The Republican National Convention in July is one of many large gatherings in Northeast Ohio where a local group believes Cleveland needs to be coordinated and organized to respond to human trafficking.

The Collaborative to End Human Trafficking is a nonprofit focused on educating the public and first responders about the reality of the crime and connecting victims with services.

Director, Karen Walsh calls it modern day slavery.

“The hard thing to understand that is, is that the chains are often invisible, that they’re coercion or fear.”

They’re working to share the message that human trafficking is happening in this area 365 days a year. “There’s nothing magic about the nature of the event,” says Walsh. “It’s truly that there are more people, more opportunity to make money.”

As part of Greater Cleveland’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking, the goal is to make sure health care professionals, teachers, administrators and those who work for social service agencies, look beyond the obvious and know the red flags of trafficking.

“What may look like a tattoo to an untrained eye may well be a brand,” says Walsh. “If more people come in July we want to be ready. We want to be ready though in May because it’s happening today.”

If you or someone you know needs help call the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s Project Star 24 hour hotline at 855.431.STAR (7827).