(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today announced the success of a Central Ohio human trafficking operation that took place April 14-15 in partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement.
Operation 614, coordinated through AG Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, encompassed more than 20 law enforcement agencies and nongovernmental partners to address issues that fuel sex trafficking in central Ohio.
“Operation 614 is the latest in a long series of efforts to push back against human trafficking in Ohio,” Yost said. “I am so proud of our law enforcement partners, who with their boots on the ground, made this operation a success. We all look forward to that day when no person is bought or sold for sex in Ohio.”
The operation, carried out in Columbus and surrounding suburbs included:
- Identifying victims of human trafficking and referring them to social services.
- Apprehending those seeking to have sex with a minor.
- Arresting male johns seeking to buy sex.
In total, 53 victims were identified and referred to services and 93 arrests were made.
For the first time in Ohio, those seeking to purchase sex were charged with engaging in prostitution, a misdemeanor of the first degree. This charge was created under House Bill 431, which became effective on Monday, April 12. Under the new law, an offender will be required to attend an education or treatment program aimed at preventing a person from inducing, enticing or procuring another to engage in sexual activity for hire.
During the operation, the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and police departments from Columbus, Dublin, New Albany and Westerville worked collaboratively to identify victims of human trafficking. Victims were linked with advocates and social services provided by the Salvation Army.
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime and a morally reprehensible act that deprives a person of their liberty and dignity for another person’s gain,” said Sgt. Dana Hess, Director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force. “The task force strives to establish a relationship of trust with all victims and is committed to eradicating all forms of human trafficking in Central Ohio.”
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) targeted and apprehended those seeking to engage in sexual activity with minors.
“Operation 614 illustrates both the need and tremendous benefit of working collaboratively with our stakeholder partners,” said Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin. “I am inspired by the commitment of the investigators who tirelessly pursue justice for these offenses. The communities we serve are safer today due to their dedication.”
Columbus, Grove City, Hilliard and Reynoldsburg police departments targeted the demand side of human trafficking as part of the operation as they apprehended individuals seeking to purchase sex.
“We recognize the toll these types of crimes take on our community and are fully supportive of investigating and prosecuting suspects, while at the same time assisting in seeking recovery resources and support for victims,” said Reynoldsburg Chief Curtis Baker.
The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, formed under the Organized Crime Investigations Commission, includes the Columbus Division of Police, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Adult Parole Authority, Powell Police Department, Salvation Army, Southeast Mental Health Addiction Services and Franklin County Hope Task Force.
The other agencies and entities that participated in Operation 614 were the Columbus Division of Police’s P.A.C.T Unit, Dublin Police Department, FBI, Grandview Heights Police Department, Grove City Division of Police, Hilliard Division of Police, New Albany Police Department, Ohio State University Police Department, Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, Reynoldsburg Division of Police, Upper Arlington Police Department, Westerville Division of Police and Sanctuary Night.
Statements from Inside the Operation
Columbus Division of Police – Interim Chief Michael Woods
“These investigations are complex and require the collaboration of many law enforcement agencies. The excellent teamwork of all agencies involved in the operation made this success possible. We will continue to hold the individuals that prey on vulnerable victims and harm our community responsible.”
Bureau of Criminal Investigation – Asst. Superintendent Heinz von Eckartsberg
“BCI’s mission is to assist our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in keeping Ohioans safe. We are proud to assist with Operation 614 in an effort to stop human trafficking and child exploitation wherever it is found.”
New Albany Police Department – Chief Greg Jones
“Working collaboratively with other law enforcement agencies and private partners creates avenues for victims to get out of the dehumanizing exploitation that is prostitution. These combined resources combat human trafficking activity and better protect the vulnerable while providing opportunities to prosecute those who prey on them.”
Grove City Division of Police – Chief Rick Butsko
“The Grove City Division of Police is committed to investigating and proactively addressing all criminal activity, especially crimes against persons. Human trafficking and prostitution affect a community as a whole, but specifically target potentially vulnerable victims. The intent of Grove City’s participation in this operation is to both enforce violations of the law in the short term and to send the long-term message that Grove City does not tolerate these types of crimes.”
Sanctuary Night – Executive Director Hannah Estabrook
“Sanctuary Night was privileged to be invited from the West Side streets of Columbus to offer our services ‘on the road.’ We gladly accept any invitation to serve women on the margins, whether those margins are along Sullivant Avenue or in the suburban hotels. We appreciate the efforts to connect women to important and necessary services, especially when those services are being offered by survivors with lived experience.”
Hilliard Division of Police – Chief Robert Fisher
“We want to drive this illegal activity out of Hilliard, and it’s individuals who solicit prostitution online creating the demand. We’re hopeful this operation will not only serve as a deterrent for human trafficking, but will provide assistance to human trafficking victims so they can get connected to advocates and resources. This operation has been another example of the successful partnership between the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in Central Ohio.”
Dublin Police Department – Chief Justin Páez:
“The Dublin Police Department recognizes the importance of collaborating with our regional partners in order to eliminate the unspeakable abuse and mistreatment of human trafficking victims. Coordinated responses like Operation 614 help us hold people accountable while bringing justice and resources to vulnerable community members. Our agency thanks the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force for furthering public awareness and for devoting critical resources to continue this work.”
Westerville Division of Police – Chief Charles Chandler
“The Westerville Division of Police supports all efforts to end the problem of human trafficking. Human trafficking and prostitution are crimes that impact individuals but also the community as a whole. We are committed to doing everything possible to rescue the victims in these cases and provide resources for their recovery. We also work diligently to identify the people who force them into these situations and hold them accountable for their actions.”
Reynoldsburg Division of Police – Chief Curtis Baker
“The Reynoldsburg Division of Police is proud to be a partner agency with the Human Trafficking Task Force for Operation 614 here in our jurisdiction. We look forward to our continued partnership towards ending crimes related to human trafficking and prostitution.”