A statewide anti-human trafficking operation that occurred in Ohio last week, described as the largest in the state, ended with more than 100 individuals arrested, including a firefighter, a university professor, and a Cleveland city councilman, USA Today reported.
Last Monday, Oct. 4, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the arrest of 161 men as part of the so-called “Operation Ohio Knows,” during a meeting at the Ohio House of Representatives that was also attended by officials, social service providers, and former victims of human trafficking.
It was also reported that 50 women offering to sell sex were arrested, but because they may be victims of trafficking, they were offered assistance from social service advocates.
The anti-trafficking operation was aimed at persuading those seeking to buy sex and was intended to reduce demand.
Those arrested, for the most part, were charged with prostitution,
“We cannot arrest our way out of human trafficking,” Yost said, noting that the arrests are essential as a means of deterring those seeking to pay for sex.
“If there are no buyers, there will be no trafficking,” the prosecutor added, warning that “anybody in Ohio who purchases sex is assuming the risk that they’re complicit in trafficking.”
In addition to the arrests made in Operation Ohio Knows, another more significant development occurred during another simultaneous operation.
Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant said that in the fight against human trafficking, the operation also recovered ten missing children.
She also said that a joint effort between the courts, schools, health care facilities, and other communities is being made to address this serious problem.
According to USA Today, three of the arrested perpetrators were willing to pay for sex with minors.
During the press conference, Sheriff Rob Streck said that an anti-human trafficking task force had been missing in the county, but it was established during the operation.
He further stated, “Our drug dealers are now finding out its easier to sell human beings than it is to sell dope now.”
Meanwhile, Dana Hess, the Columbus police officer, in addition to thanking all the agencies that carried out this operation, said:
“Ohio knows what’s going on in our state. Ohio knows what’s going on in our country and Ohio knows what’s going on in our world,” Hess said. “So if you’re buying sex from another human being or sexually exploiting another human being for your own personal gain, you better watch out because Ohio knows and we are coming after you.”
Beyond the important result achieved with Operation Ohio Knows, for Prosecutor Yost, this work should not stop. It is important to educate the community to be vigilant because it is something that happens everywhere.
“This is not just something that happens down in the hood, in the city. Its in every county, it’s in every town, this is happening all over Ohio,” he said.