Ohio’s largest anti-human trafficking operation results in 154 rescues, 179 arrests (Cleveland.com)
October 26, 2020
This article was originally published by Cleveland.com on October 26, 2020.
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Federal, state, and local officials launched what they say is the largest anti-human-trafficking operation in state history last week, rescuing 154 victims and arresting 179 men for illegally soliciting sex and other crimes.
During Operation Autumn Hope, which involved more than 50 law enforcement agencies and social-service organizations, state and local authorities cracked down on adult sex trafficking in Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Lucas counties, as well as people soliciting sex with children in Franklin and Mahoning counties. The U.S. Marshals Service, meanwhile, focused on saving child sex victims in Southern Ohio.
During the operation, 109 human-trafficking survivors – all women and mostly adults – were found and referred to social services in Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Lucas counties, according to a release from Attorney General Dave Yost’s office.
Simultaneously, 76 cases of missing and exploited children were cleared up, and 45 children were physically rescued, the release stated. One of the missing children was a 15-year-old Cleveland girl linked to an individual in Columbus suspected of human trafficking, the release stated.
Authorities arrested a total of 157 men in Cuyahoga, Franklin and Lucas counties on charges of soliciting and other crimes, according to Yost’s office. An additional 22 men in Franklin and Mahoning counties have been charged with felony crimes related to attempting to have sex with a minor.
The operation had been planned for several months prior to it being put into action, according to Yost spokesman Steve Irwin.
“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!”
Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, said during an online news conference that the operation has given hope to sex trafficking survivors.
“It is very likely that you prevented many others from being harmed in unimaginable ways,” Miller said. “Human trafficking thrives in the shadows of our communities where survivors feel unseen and unheard, and the COVID pandemic has made those shadows bigger and darker, making far too many women, children, and men fall prey.”
Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is here for survivors of trafficking and anyone looking for support or information. Call the 24-Hour Project STAR Hotline: 855-431-STAR (7827).