In Columbus, Ohio, a human trafficking sting was recently conducted. More than 200 individuals were arrested, the largest sting for human trafficking in Ohio’s history.
According to a report from Fox59, the anti-trafficking initiative went on for a week, which “led to the arrest of 161 people seeking to buy sex, including three people from Franklin County who sought to buy sex from a minor. Additionally, 50 people were arrested for offering to sell sex.”
Among some of the culprits included a firefighter, a contractor, a college professor, and a city councilman who was up for reelection.
The City Councilman, Mark Jessie, stated he knows he made “an enormous mistake.” He felt like he was going to “throw up” when authorities arrested him.
The initiative was called “Operation Ohio Knows,” which consisted of social workers, human trafficking survivors, law enforcement, and the Attorney General of Ohio.
The initiative was intended to send a message to traffickers and consumers of pay-for-sex. Ohio Attorney General, Dave Yost, said that "We want to send a message to everybody in the country: Don't buy sex in Ohio." He hopes this recent bust will discourage the idea of buying sex.
Law enforcement would meet with “Johns” (those who pay for sexual services) and arrest them once given enough evidence.
At least three of the perpetrators said they were willing to have sex with underaged individuals. The sting uncovered 10 minors who were previously reported as missing.
Ohio added a statute to their human trafficking laws in January of 2021 that makes the act of buying sex a first-degree misdemeanor, and the wrongdoer may be fined up to $1500. The bill also makes those guilty of buying sex attend an education or treatment program to understand human trafficking.
Yost explained that the best way to fight human trafficking isn’t necessarily by arresting them alone (because it is sometimes needed) but by educating them as well. "We cannot arrest our way out of human trafficking. If there are no buyers, there will be no trafficking."
"When you are the buyer, you have no idea who you're dealing with," he said. "The pimp, the trafficker, doesn't show up and sit in the corner watching you. The survivor doesn't tell you, 'I don't want to do this, but if I don't, I'm going to be beat' or 'He's going to withhold my drugs.'”
"Because we don't know, anybody in Ohio who purchases sex is assuming the risk that they're complicit in trafficking," stated Ohio Attorney General Yost.
Despite the accomplishment of Operation Ohio Knows, there is still more work to be done. Ohio is the #5 state for human trafficking reports. Sheriff Kandy Fatheree of Summit County, Ohio, warns her colleagues that sting operations shouldn’t be the only way to fight human trafficking. Sheriff Fatheree stated that "This is the beginning and not the end, and I think we have so much work to do across the state.”