A statewide crackdown on human trafficking in Ohio led to the rescue of 109 victims and the arrests of more than 157 men, according to a statement from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Operation Autumn Hope involved more than 50 law enforcement agencies that focused on rescuing human trafficking victims, recovering missing and exploited children and arresting individuals seeking to buy sex or have sex with a minor, according to the statement released Monday.
Our Human Trafficking task forces — local law enforcement teaming up with the state — conducted a massive statewide sting last week.
Operation Autumn Hope is the largest single HT operation in state history. Our goal: an Ohio where no human is bought or sold.
Details at 10
— Dave Yost (@Yost4Ohio) October 26, 2020
Great work by @OhioAG Dave Yost, along with federal, state and local law enforcement, on one of the largest trafficking stings in Ohio history.
— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) October 26, 2020
Multiple human trafficking task forces worked together to rescue 109 human trafficking victims, who were referred to social services in central and northeastern Ohio. In the southern part of the state, 76 missing and exploited children cases were completed, including 45 by the U.S. Marshal’s service, which is a federal law enforcement unit.
Among the missing children who were recovered was a 15-year-old girl from Cleveland. Her case and that of other possible victims were linked to a suspect in Columbus who is believed to be involved in human trafficking, according to the statement. A 15-year-old male with two warrants who is a suspect in multiple shootings and a homicide, along with a 14-year-old girl who was reported missing and who was received in Columbus were recovered within hours of being reported missing.
“The success of Operation Autumn Hope is measured not only in the number of arrests but in the lives that were rescued from this evil,” Yost said. “Every agency on this team looks for the day when no person is bought and sold in Ohio. Don’t buy sex in Ohio!”
In three counties, 157 men were arrested on charges of soliciting and other crimes. Those arrested were charged with soliciting and other charges, and included a fireman, an attorney, and a motivational speaker, the statement says.
Two task forces involved in the operation apprehended 22 individuals seeking to have sex with a minor. Charged against the individuals include felony counts of importuning, attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, possession of criminal tools and other felony charges. The suspects include a pastor, students and a rehabilitation resident advisor.
“Survivors of rape and sex trafficking deserve to be believed and have access to justice. By holding offenders accountable and reducing demand for human trafficking, this operation prevented many others from being harmed,” Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Center, said in the statement.
National Human Trafficking Hotline statistics show a 25 percent jump in human trafficking cases from 2017 to 2018, according to UNCIEF USA.
In 2019, the Department of Justice initiated a total of 220 federal human trafficking prosecutions and charged 343 defendents. Of the prosecutions, most of the incidents involved sex trafficking (208) and 12 involved labor trafficking, according to the State Department. That same year, 475 traffickers were convicted.
Ivanka Trump and Attorney General William Barr announced $100 million in new funding allocated by the Department of Justice to fight human trafficking in September. Weeks later, the Department of Homeland Security announced the opening of the new Center for Countering Human Trafficking to combat “modern day slavery.” (RELATED: Ivanka Trump, AG William Barr Announce $100 Million In New Funding By DOJ To Fight Human Trafficking)