(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today announced that 161 people were arrested and 51 potential human trafficking victims were helped in a statewide operation for which nearly 100 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies partnered with non-governmental and nonprofit organizations.
“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,” said Grove City Division of Police – Chief Richard Butsko.
Operation Ohio Knows, coordinated through AG Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC), was a collaborative effort that took place from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1 to address issues that fuel sex trafficking in Ohio.
“People who traffic other humans are doing it for a really simple reason — money. And if there’s no demand then there will be no market,” Yost said Monday morning during a press conference at the Statehouse, where he was joined by leaders of law enforcement agencies and social service organizations. “Reducing the demand means we reduce the number of people who are victimized by human trafficking.
“We will not rest until no one in Ohio buys or sells human beings.”
The operation included the arrest of 161 individuals seeking to buy sex – three of who sought to buy sex from minors. During the course of the operation, law enforcement officers also arrested individuals who possessed drugs and/or firearms. Most were charged with engaging in prostitution, a first-degree misdemeanor. A change in state law passed in the spring requires those convicted to undergo human trafficking education, a provision promoted by Attorney General Yost to decrease the demand for prostitution.
Among those arrested were a teacher, a professor, a firefighter, a pilot, municipal employees and a city councilman.
Fifty individuals offering to sell sex – men and women – were arrested. Law enforcement officers interviewed 51 potential human trafficking victims, who were provided services from health care and social services organizations.
A simultaneous operation carried out by the U.S. Marshals Service recovered 10 missing children.
Also participating in the press conference with the attorney general was Mandie Knight, a human trafficking survivor, who spoke about the role law enforcement played on her road to recovery.
“When I was being trafficked, I knew that law enforcement was somewhere I could turn to when I needed a safe way out, and that’s what happened,” said Knight, now resource manager for Freedom a la Cart and a wife, mother and student in forensic criminology. “Had I not been arrested, had I not gone to jail, and had I not suffered some consequences for the decisions I was making, I wouldn’t be here today and I wouldn’t be as successful in life.”
Operation Ohio Knows is the latest anti-human trafficking operation under Attorney General Yost, whose office hosts an annual human trafficking summit and provides coordination, education and outreach on the subject.