Operation Ohio Knows: Over 160 arrests made in large statewide anti-human trafficking operation

COLUMBUS — Over 160 people were arrested during a week-long, anti-human trafficking sting across the state of Ohio that included work from a newly-formed task force for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the results of Operation Ohio Knows, an anti-human trafficking operation that targeted those looking to buy sex and was aimed at decreasing demand for those who want to buy sex, Yost said during a news conference Monday.

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The operation led to the arrests of over 160 people who attempted to buy sex, three people who tried to buy sex from a minor, recovered 10 missing children, and 50 additional arrests of people who offered to sell sex, but have been offered services as potential victims of human trafficking.

Yost said the operation was the first one in the state that specifically targeted the demand side, and comes after recently passed legislation that makes the punishment for buying sex more severe.

“People who traffic other humans are doing it for one simple reason: money. If there is no market, if there are no buyers, there will be no trafficking,” Yost said.

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Yost said the aim of this operation and ones in the future is to reduce the demand, which hopefully will lead to reducing the number of victims of human trafficking.

Among the arrests in the sting were a Columbus firefighter, city councilmember, home improvement contractor, teacher, and airline pilot, Yost said. Names and locations of those arrested in the sting were not released during the news conference but were expected to be released later Monday.

“It happens everywhere. This is not just something that happens down in the ‘hood in the city. Its in every county its in every town this is happening all over Ohio,” Yost said.

“I will not rest until no one in Ohio buys or sells human beings,” he said.

Over 90 agencies participated in Operation Ohio Knows, including the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Rob Streck spoke during the news conference, saying an anti-human trafficking task force was something missing in the county, but has been established and debuted during the operation.

“Our drug dealers are now finding out its easier to sell human beings than it is to sell dope now. So what are they doing, they are going to change like they always do to keep their money coming in,” Streck said.

Streck said the task force was needed to operate with the county’s two other task forces, bulk currency and drug operations.

“Our task forces will now have that final piece they have in our triangle. We will have support through our social services to give to those individuals who are trafficked,” Streck said.

News Center 7 was granted exclusive access to this Montgomery County task force during the operation last week. More on how the operation came to be will be released later today, starting with News Center 7′s 90 minutes of news at 5 p.m.