On January 22, 2020, "Missing Persons Page“ on Facebook posted (here) a map of the state of Ohio and claimed, "These are the number of missing children by county. Ohio is the human trafficking capital of the entire USA." Shared over 7.4 thousand times as of February 28, 2020, both claims are false. Although the map itself comes from a legitimate source, page 5 of the Ohio Attorney General's 2018 Annual Report on Missing Children (see here), it does not represent the number of missing children per county. Instead, it shows the number of missing children reports per county. As reported (here) by Reuters, more than 99% of missing children in the United States make it home alive. As reported by NPR (here), most missing persons cases are quickly resolved, according to Todd Matthews, director of communications for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (www.namus.gov/). According to data (here) from the Polaris Project, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that works to combat human trafficking , there were 898 victims of human trafficking identified in the state of Ohio in 2018. By combining state-by-state data (here) from Polaris with state population totals (see first table, "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population" here: here) from the U.S. Census Bureau, Reuters found that the state of Nevada has the highest rate of human trafficking relative to population size: about 19.6 victims per 100,000 people. For Ohio, the rate is 7.7 victims per 100,000 people. The state with the highest number of total victims in 2018 was California, where 3,272 people were trafficked. It is worth noting the difficulty of accurately recording such data. “Due to the hidden nature of this crime," says Elizabeth Gerrior, associate director of data quality at Polaris, "data is very underreported in many areas and it’s difficult to use the data that exists to estimate prevalence.” Factors that influence the volume of reports include the level of information victims have access to, whether victims feel safe reporting, and the prevalence of Human Trafficking Hotline posting in each state. Some states have mandatory posting laws, while others do not. In addition, some cities are even required to post the number if they are believed to high-risk areas. Gerrior also acknowledges that compared to other data sets, data from Polaris "seems to underrepresent the presence of labor trafficking in the United States." She says this may come from the public "not being able to recognize (labor) trafficking when they see it." VERDICTPartly false: this map is authentic, but it shows the number of missing children reports, not missing children, by county in Ohio. Ohio is not "the human trafficking capital of the entire USA." California has the highest number of victims and Nevada has the highest rate relative to population.
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