COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Friday announced the success of a Central Ohio human trafficking operation that took place April 14-15 in partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement.
The AG’s office said Operation 614, coordinated through AG Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, encompassed more than 20 law enforcement agencies and nongovernmental partners to address issues that fuel sex trafficking in central Ohio.
“Operation 614 is the latest in a long series of efforts to push back against human trafficking in Ohio,” Yost said.
“I am so proud of our law enforcement partners, who with their boots on the ground, made this operation a success. We all look forward to that day when no person is bought or sold for sex in Ohio.”
The operation, carried out in Columbus and surrounding suburbs included:
Identifying victims of human trafficking and referring them to social services
Apprehending those seeking to have sex with a minor
Arresting male johns seeking to buy sexIn total, 53 victims were identified and referred to services and 93 arrests were made.
Yost said for the first time in Ohio, those seeking to purchase sex were charged with engaging in prostitution, a misdemeanor of the first degree. This charge was created under House Bill 431, which became effective on Monday, April 12.
Under the new law, an offender will be required to attend an education or treatment program aimed at preventing a person from inducing, enticing or procuring another to engage in sexual activity for hire.
During the operation, the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force and police departments from Columbus, Dublin, New Albany and Westerville worked collaboratively to identify victims of human trafficking.
Victims were linked with advocates and social services provided by the Salvation Army.
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime and a morally reprehensible act that deprives a person of their liberty and dignity for another person’s gain,” said Sgt. Dana Hess, Director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.
“The task force strives to establish a relationship of trust with all victims and is committed to eradicating all forms of human trafficking in Central Ohio.”
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) targeted and apprehended those seeking to engage in sexual activity with minors.
“Operation 614 illustrates both the need and tremendous benefit of working collaboratively with our stakeholder partners,” said Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin. “I am inspired by the commitment of the investigators who tirelessly pursue justice for these offenses. The communities we serve are safer today due to their dedication.”
Columbus, Grove City, Hilliard and Reynoldsburg police departments targeted the demand side of human trafficking as part of the operation as they apprehended individuals seeking to purchase sex.
“We recognize the toll these types of crimes take on our community and are fully supportive of investigating and prosecuting suspects, while at the same time assisting in seeking recovery resources and support for victims,” said Reynoldsburg Chief Curtis Baker.