Ohio had its largest human trafficking bust in history last week, with 161 people being arrested. Those who got taken down in this sting included a college professor, a firefighter, and even a Cleveland-area city councilman.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told USA Today that the week-long sting was dubbed “Operation Ohio Knows,” It aimed to create a deterrent for those who seek sex for pay or profit.

“We want to send a message to everybody in the country: Don’t buy sex in Ohio,” he said.

Chief Deputy Rick Minerd of the Franklin County sheriff’s office said that for every arrest that was made, law enforcement officials had contact with up to eight “johns” whose actions didn’t meet the elements of any crime.

Three of the people arrested in the sting were looking to pay for sex with minors, and most of those arrested were charged with engaging in prostitution, a first-degree misdemeanor. Others were hit with drug or firearms charges.

Fifty-one women, would-be victims, were given assistance by social workers, and it is unclear how many of them will be charged.

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“We cannot arrest our way out of human trafficking,” Yost said. “If there are no buyers, there will be no trafficking.”

Yost went on to say that it’s important for the public to know that human trafficking is not a victimless crime.

“When you are the buyer, you have no idea who you’re dealing with,” he said. “The pimp, the trafficker, doesn’t show up and sit in the corner watching you. The survivor doesn’t tell you, ‘I don’t want to do this, but if I don’t, I’m going to be beat’ or ‘He’s going to withhold my drugs.’ Because we don’t know, anybody in Ohio who purchases sex is assuming the risk that they’re complicit in trafficking.”

Mandie Knight is a survivor of human trafficking who spoke to reporters this week about how grateful she is that she was arrested.

“Had I not been arrested, had I not gone to jail and had I not suffered some consequences for the decisions I was making, I wouldn’t be here today, and I wouldn’t be as successful in life,” said Knight, who is now a married mom and a student in forensic criminology.

In November, Mark Jessie, a councilman running for reelection in Elyria, was picked up in the sting.

“I’m taking this very seriously and realize it’s an enormous mistake,” he said, adding that he sought sex from someone he thought was selling it on a website. He went on to say that when police arrested him, “there was an immediate feeling of wanting to throw up and an immediate feeling of facing the consequences with my family and friends.”

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We applaud the men and women of law enforcement in Ohio who made this sting such a success.

This piece was written by James Samson on October 6, 2021. It originally appeared in RedVoiceMedia.com and is used by permission.

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