Dozens Arrested While Trying to Buy Sex During ‘Operation Time’s Up’
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — A weekend human-trafficking operation involving 98 law enforcement agencies across the state ended in the arrests of 35 “johns” seeking to buy sex and 21 others seeking to buy sex from minors, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced today.
“On my watch, those who keep human traffickers in business are going to pay a price along with the traffickers themselves,” Yost said. “My office, with the vital help of our many law enforcement partners, is committed to going after the demand side of this contemptible exploitation of vulnerable young women and girls.”
“Operation Time’s Up,” coordinated under AG Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigation Commission, targeted the demand for human trafficking with a series of stings aimed at arresting buyers of sex, commonly called johns.
The sweep also coincided with the culmination of an investigation of illicit massage parlors in Cleveland and a statewide search for missing children by the U.S. Marshals Service.
Operation Time’s Up was a multi-pronged effort involving:
- Law enforcement in Franklin, Mahoning and Scioto counties, which focused on crimes against children by arresting individuals seeking to buy sex from minors. The 21 arrested face felony charges that include attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
“The Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children task force conducted traveler stings to target adult offenders actively seeking out minors using various internet-based chat and dating applications with the ultimate intent to engage in sexual activity,” Franklin County Sheriff Baldwin said. “Intercepting these predators before they can harm children is paramount to keeping our communities safe.”
- Police agencies in the Columbus, Lancaster, Dayton, Akron, Cleveland, Marietta and Portsmouth areas, which focused on solicitors of sex. Many of the 35 people arrested face the enhanced charge of engaging in prostitution, a first-degree misdemeanor championed by Yost’s office. Those convicted of the charge must undergo human trafficking education, also known as “john school.”
“Human trafficking is fueled by customers – predators – who engage in paid sexual services,” Fairfield County Sheriff Alex Lape said. “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 U.S. Marshals Service, which throughout August conducted an operation to locate and recover missing children, per the request of law enforcement, to ensure their well-being.
“The Justice for Victims Trafficking Act of 2015 enhanced the United States Marshals’ authority to support federal, state and local law enforcement efforts in the process of locating missing, abducted or endangered children,” said Brad Stuart, Acting U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio. “Thank you to all of the partners who worked together to rescue our communities’ most vulnerable children.”
As has been the practice during such operations, law officers who came across individuals offering to sell sex – men and women – interviewed them; the victims were also offered medical and social services from nongovernmental agencies and nonprofits working alongside law enforcement. Such intervention can help pull victims out of the trafficking trap.
Interviews with both buyers and sellers of sex yielded tips helpful in long-term investigations. In July, for example, two Cuyahoga County residents were indicted on charges of trafficking multiple women, indictments that stemmed from a previous sting by the Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.
“It is time to challenge and change our attitudes about human trafficking,” said Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant. “Through partnerships with the nearly 900 local law enforcement agencies in the state of Ohio, the Columbus Division of Police is committed to a holistic, deliberate collaboration to address this complex issue plaguing our communities. We must all raise our voices and be dedicated to preventing future victims from being exploited by these perpetrators.”
Statements from Inside the Operation
“Task forces that operate under the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission have the enhanced ability to work across jurisdictions,” Yost said. “This operation would not have been possible without our many partners.”
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office – Sheriff Rob Streck
“We know human trafficking may cross several jurisdictions and thanks to the collaboration between our local, state and federal partners, statewide efforts like Operation Time’s Up allow us to fight human trafficking more effectively. Our task force will continue to find and arrest traffickers, provide resources to help victims, and raise awareness of the exploitation of our most vulnerable population.”
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.”
Grandview Heights Division of Police – Chief Ryan Starns
“The Grandview Heights Division of Police was proud to partner with the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and assist in this operation by sharing our resources and dedicating personnel.”
Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force – Sgt. Dana Hess
“The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force strives to provide ongoing awareness to the citizens of central Ohio. To continue our commitment to combat human trafficking, it is imperative that every member of our community identifies the warning signs of human trafficking and plays an active role in reporting possible victimization. This crime can only be successfully investigated and prosecuted when every member of society is committed to fighting for the safety and security of all our people.”
Scioto County Sheriff’s Office – Sheriff David Thoroughman
“Human trafficking has no boundaries. In may cases, human trafficking may cross several law enforcement jurisdictions as well as state lines. Thanks to the collaboration between our local, state and federal partners, statewide efforts like Operation Time’s Up allows the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office and the Southern Ohio Organized & Major Crimes Task Force to find and arrest human traffickers, provide resources to help victims and raise awareness of the exploitation of our most vulnerable population.”
Special thanks to the partners that joined in Operation Time’s Up alongside AG Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigation Commission and BCI:
Noble County Prosecutor’s Office, Noble County Sheriff’s Office, Washington County Prosecutor’s Office, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Summit County Human Trafficking Task Force, Licking County Sheriff’s Office, Strongsville Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Salvation Army, Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Miami Valley Human Trafficking Task Force, Montgomery County RANGE Task Force, Summit County Collaborative Against Human Trafficking, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Morgan County Prosecutor’s Office, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, Chagrin Valley Dispatch, Akron Police Department, Mahoning County Human Trafficking Task Force, Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, Ohio Investigative Unit, Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Warren Police Department, Rehab Ministries, Rescue and Restore, Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children, Copley Police Department, Dublin Police Department, Hilliard Police Department, Southeastern Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, Columbus Division of Police P.A.C.T. Unit, Ohio State University Police Department, Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office, Miami Township Police Department (Montgomery County), Lancaster Police Department, Cleveland Division of Police, Cortland Police Department, North Olmsted Police Department, Austintown Police Department, Youngstown Police Department, Southern Ohio Organized and Major Crimes Task Force, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, Middleburg Heights Police Department, Springfield Township Police Department (Summit County), Stow Police Department, East Cleveland Police Department, CANOPY Child Advocacy Center, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office, Grove City Division of Police, Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office, Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Rape Crisis Center of Medina And Summit Counties, Medina County Sheriff’s Office, Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, Lancaster Police Department, Butler Township Police Department, Ohio Adult Parole Authority, Athens County Police Department, Powell Police Department, Portage County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Portsmouth Police Department, Salem Police Department, Meigs County Prosecutor’s Office, Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, Lawrence County Major Crimes Task Force, Athens County Sheriff’s Office, Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, Southeast Healthcare, Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Narcotics Task Force, Marietta Police Department, Marietta College Police Department, Metro Health Police Department, Stark County Sheriff’s Office, Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office, Westerville Police Department, Warrensville Heights Police Department, Grandview Heights Division of Police, New Albany Police Department, New Boston Police Department, and Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.