- Associated Press - Sunday, February 7, 2016

CLEVELAND (AP) - Social service organizations and law enforcement agencies are planning a campaign to raise awareness of a possible increase in forced prostitution and labor trafficking while crowds are in Cleveland for the upcoming Republican National Convention.

The Greater Cleveland’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking expects to finalize details of the campaign and launch it in the coming weeks, Cleveland.com reported. The collective of 19 social service organizations and law enforcement agencies aims to increase awareness of human trafficking through training, social media campaigns and advertisements such as billboards.

The RNC is expected to draw around 50,000 people to the Cleveland area during the week of July 18.

Sonda Miller, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, says an uptick in human trafficking is expected during large gatherings such as political conventions. San Francisco similarly planned to raise awareness of the issue while hosting this year’s Super Bowl, Miller said.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport also plans to boost human trafficking awareness training for airport employees ahead of the convention, said Fred Szabo, airport interim director.

Political conventions are no different than other gatherings that bring large numbers of outsiders to cities for short periods of time, he said.

“Historically, there’s always been a need or a desire for that type of service, and these individuals that operate within human trafficking know that,” Szabo said.

Separately, a committee with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is preparing “a human trafficking education and awareness plan” for the Cleveland area ahead of the convention.

Karen Walsh, director of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, said advocates have been focusing on the issue as it relates to the RNC since late 2014.

“We hope to work together to build a strong safety net and continue this conversation long after the convention is gone,” Walsh said.

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