COLUMBUS (WJW) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost gathered with federal, state and local law enforcement officers and social service partners to announce the results of a statewide anti-human trafficking operation that occurred in Ohio last week.
“Operation Ohio Knows” resulted in 161 arrests of individuals, some from Northeast Ohio, trying to buy sex, in some cases with someone posing as a minor. This was the largest human trafficking bust in the state’s history, Yost announced.
The suspects arrested include a home improvement contractor, a city council member from Elyria identified by Elyria police as Mark Jessie, 64; a firefighter, a teacher, a professor and even a pilot, making over $200,000 a year, who haggled the price down to $15. Another suspect was arrested with a 2-year-old in the car.
Yost said during the press conference that, for the first time in Ohio, a statute is in place where it makes it a more serious crime to buy sex than to sell sex because the “John” is in it for the money. He says if there are no buyers, there will be no trafficking.
“Reducing the demand means that we reduce the number of people who are victimized by human trafficking,” he said.
He went on to say, “The survivor does not tell you, ‘I don’t really want to do this but if I don’t I’m going to be beaten,’ or ‘If I don’t he’s going to withhold my drugs and I’ll go into withdrawal and I can’t deal with that.'”
Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant said that along with combating human trafficking, the operation recovered 10 missing children.
She said they are working with the courts, schools, health care facilities and other communities partners statewide to address this very serious issue.
Columbus Police Officer Dana Hess thanked the nearly 100 agencies that participated in the operation.
“Ohio knows what’s going on in our state. Ohio knows what’s going on in our country and Ohio knows what’s going on in our world,” Hess said. “So if you’re buying sex from another human being or sexually exploiting another human being for your own personal gain, you better watch out because Ohio knows and we are coming after you.”