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Ohio law enforcement arrest more than 100 people in human trafficking sting targeting 'johns'

Columbus Police vehicles outside the division headquarters.
David Holm

A week-long human trafficking sting operation across Ohio in late September led to over 100 arrests of so-called "johns" attempting to pay for sex.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced that law enforcement arrested 160 people throughout the state in an effort to "stem the demand that fuels human trafficking." The sting was called "Operation Buyer’s Remorse."

“Law enforcement across Ohio teamed up in a concerted effort to stem the demand that fuels human trafficking,” Yost said in a release. “The success of this operation is measured not only by the number of arrests, but also by the resources offered to survivors of human trafficking and the intelligence gathered that will propel long-term investigations forward.”

The operation lasted from Sept. 25 to Sept. 30, and resulted in arrests in several cities including Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, Youngstown, Marietta and Portsmouth.

Most of the arrested suspects were men and considered "johns," but law enforcement also conducted search warrants at 11 massage parlors suspected of engaging in human trafficking.

Yost said police also arrested two people who were looking to have sex with minors and six people for promoting prostitution.

Yost said Columbus Police arrested 62 people over five days, including one man who was arrested twice in the same day. The 62 arrests were the most in a single jurisdiction.

Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant said the department is committed to the relentless pursuit of criminals responsible for human trafficking, prostitution and crimes that exploit children. She also said CPD will continue to support efforts to prevent these crimes.

Yost said the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio Department of Public Safety offered services to 37 potential victims of human trafficking during two day-long outreach events.

He also said law enforcement officers around the state interviewed 104 survivors of human trafficking, who were provided services from health care and social service organizations.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.