Statewide Operation Targets Patrons of Sex Workers, Nets 160 Arrests in Ohio


OHIO - In a comprehensive effort led by Ohio's attorney general, a statewide crackdown on patrons of sex workers has resulted in 160 arrests, primarily focusing on individuals suspected of being "johns."

Dubbed "Operation Buyer's Remorse," this weeklong initiative encompassed every corner of Ohio and led to the apprehension of 149 individuals involved in solicitation, as stated by the attorney general's office. Notably, the operation included a 17-year-old and an 84-year-old suspected of soliciting sex workers.

Among the arrests, 11 individuals were taken into custody under accusations of "promoting prostitution," a violation of state law prohibiting the act of compelling sex work.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost emphasized the significant impact of such operations, stressing that they contribute to the demand for human trafficking. Yost stated, "That's what makes this pernicious."

In Toledo, the U.S. Border Patrol participated in warrant-based searches of five massage parlors described as "illicit" by the attorney general's office. Six individuals linked to these establishments were arrested on suspicion of compelling prostitution.

A few suspects faced charges related to attempting to engage in sexual activities with minors, or for the possession of drugs or firearms.

Yost portrayed this operation as a substantial victory in the ongoing fight against human trafficking, a complex and often intersecting criminal activity with the realm of sex work.

"Law enforcement across Ohio teamed up in a concerted effort to stem the demand that fuels human trafficking,” Yost affirmed.

Police Chief James Schultz from Willoughby, Ohio, emphasized the vulnerable position of individuals involved in sex work, stating, "They’re compelled to do this. They’re forced to do this."

The operation was executed by eight task forces across the state, conducting stings in late September to lure suspects into simulated encounters with sex workers, according to the statement and accompanying video.

Throughout the operation, over 100 survivors of human trafficking were identified and offered information about available social services, with the office also referring to them as "potential victims."

It is crucial to note that none of the arrested suspects were specifically accused of human trafficking, and Ohio's law against human trafficking was not mentioned in the cases listed by the attorney general's office.

Representative organizations for sex workers and civil liberties have not yet responded to requests for comment. These groups, along with some scholars, have consistently opposed the criminalization of sex work, even in instances where sex workers were not the primary targets.

According to the Yale Global Health Justice Partnership in 2020, "There is no evidence that criminalizing sex work deters those who may sell or buy sex."

"The evidence shows that criminalization, whether full or partial (the latter only targets buyers), makes sex work more dangerous."