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More than 50 people arrested in Ohio sweep of human trafficking offenders

 Law enforcement officers make arrest in human trafficking sting over the weekend of August 20, 2022.
Office of Attorney General Dave Yost
Law enforcement officers make arrest in human trafficking sting over the weekend of August 20, 2022.

A statewide operation that included law enforcement agencies in several counties resulted in the arrest of more than 50 people, including those charged with trying to buy sex with minors.

The sweep of human trafficking offenders — dubbed Operation Time’s Up — involved 98 different law enforcement agencies, which included county sheriff’s offices, police departments and the U.S. Marshals Service.

The operation was conducted under the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigation Commission.

Attorney General Dave Yost said the intent was to go after the “demand” of human trafficking, or offenders known as “johns.”

“There's no selling without buyers. If we got to the point where no men wanted to buy sex, nobody would be selling it. And so enforcing the laws against engaging prostitution against the buyers is a critical element of our enforcement strategy,” Yost said.

The operation resulted in the arrests of 35 people seeking to buy sex and the arrests of another 21 people seeking to buy sex with victims under 18-years-old.

Yost said the sweep was conducted by different, multi-jurisdictional task forces that are supported by the attorney general’s office.

“But they still have a great deal of local autonomy. We work with them on the things that they say are needed in their local communities. It's run by local law enforcement with state support,” Yost said.

Of the 35 people arrested for trying to buy sex with someone over the age of 18, many will face a charge of engaging in prostitution, a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction of that charge includes the required completion of a human trafficking education course.

“Human trafficking is fueled by customers – predators – who engage in paid sexual services,” said Alex Lape, Fairfield County sheriff, in a statement. “Conducting proactive undercover sting operations is an effective tactic to bring public awareness to human trafficking and education to the buyers of paid sexual services.”

The attorney general’s office said law enforcement officers interviewed the people they came across who were offering to sell sex. Then they were offered medical and social services from non-governmental agencies and nonprofits that work with law enforcement in these task forces.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.