One hundred and four people involved in human trafficking and illegal sexual conduct with minors were arrested by police in the state of Ohio, the state Attorney General’s Office reported Sept. 13.
Among those arrested were Christian Gibson, 26, former youth director of Redeemer’s Courtright Church in Columbus, and Austin Kosier, a 31-year-old physician, Fox News reported.
The officers posed as underage children online and contacted the suspects.
Maj. Steven Tucker of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office described some of the detainees.
“They show up with sex toys, they show up with lubrication,” Tucker said. “They show up with things that clearly somebody isn’t going to show up to a house with, unless they intended to engage in sexual activity,” the officer added.
The actions of 30 organizations linked to the prevention of human trafficking and prostitution were coordinated to carry out the operation.
Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said, ” Human trafficking is an evil act that exploits innocent lives, takes advantage of the vulnerable, and endangers entire communities,” according to the Ohio Attorney General’s website.
Similarly, Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Director James Mackey commented, “These traffickers operate for only one reason, and it is to make money. An effective way to combat human trafficking is to go after the buyers of sex, otherwise known as the “Johns.”
The state of Ohio is particularly active in the sex trade and human trafficking. The main reasons are the proximity to Canada and the fact that interstate highways through Ohio connect with many rural urban communities.
The FBI ranks Toledo, Ohio, as the fourth city in the country with the most traffic of this kind.
Part of the offenders’ strategies include recruiting victims over the Internet; once contact is established, threats, heroin, and violence are used to force women and children into prostitution, according to a study by The Ohio Family Physician, published in 2015.
The same study revealed that in Ohio 1,078 teenagers were involved in the sex trade during 2015. Approximately 18% of the victims said they became involved in the sex trade before age 18 and 10% said they became involved before age 12.