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Summit County Sheriff investigating possible human trafficking at Akron tent city

Sage Lewis in the tent city
Tim Rudell
/
WKSU
In this photo from 2018, Sage Lewis, an Akron activist who runs a homeless encampment, speaks to a film crew about a previous tent city called Second Chance Village. Lewis currently runs a camp on Kent Place, and the sheriff's office is investigating complaints of possible human trafficking occurring there.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is investigating potential human trafficking violations and exploitation at a homeless camp in Akron commonly referred to as a “tent city.”

The sheriff’s office, along with the Akron police department and county prosecutor’s office, discovered several victims who required “immediate intervention” at the encampment on Kent Place in Akron's Middlebury neighborhood Tuesday after conducting a welfare check, according to a press release. Police had received “several credible complaints” about the location, officials said in the release.

One victim was transported to a local hospital, while others were referred for counseling and shelter services, the release states.

Sage Lewis, an advocate for individuals experiencing homelessness who runs the site, said in a Facebook live video Thursday he will gladly help police in their investigation if need be.

“I am happy to talk to the police about that. And if the police need help finding someone who trafficked somebody, I will gladly hunt them down and return them to the police. Gladly,” Lewis said in the video.

The sheriff’s office also found 13 people living there with active felony warrants for other offenses including burglary, having weapons while under disability and possession of drugs, officials said in the release. The individuals were transported to the county jail, according to the release.

Earlier this month, the city of Akron sued to shut down the site, which is located behind a property Lewis owns on Broad St., citing public safety concerns and non-compliance with zoning regulations.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday, July 8 at 10 a.m.

A previous nearby encampment run by Lewis, known as Second Chance Village, shut down in 2019. The city ordered it to close due to zoning violations.

Lewis said in a Facebook post Friday that sex work does occur at the Kent Place encampment, but he was not aware of any trafficking.

“If there was sex trafficking going on I want to know about it. I want it to end. I support women selling sex. I don't support exploiting women,” Lewis said in the post.

No arrests have been made yet in the trafficking investigation.