Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Monday that 161 people were arrested and 51 potential human trafficking victims were helped as part of a weeklong, state-wide anti-human trafficking operation that culminated Friday.
Among the 161 people arrested were three who were seeking to buy sex from minors. Others that Yost mentioned were a teacher, a firefighter, a professor, a pilot, a home improvement contractor, a city council member and a man who had a two-year-old in his car when he was apprehended.
“This is not just something that happens down in the ‘hood in this city,” Yost said in a 53-minute news conference that he held on Monday at the Ohio Statehouse. “It’s in every county. It’s in every town. This is happening all over Ohio. Poor neighborhoods, rich neighborhoods. Educated, uneducated. Black, white. It doesn’t matter.”
“It happens everywhere, and that’s why this fight is so important. And I will not rest until no one in Ohio buys or sells human beings,” he said.
The sting was a collaboration, which Yost called “a collegial effort,” among nearly 100 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies partnering with both nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations. Its aim was to decrease the demand for those seeking to pay for sex rather than focus on the individuals who sell it.
Yost referred to a recent Ohio statute that makes the punishment for buying sex more severe, thereby targeting the demand side of the sex trafficking trade. It also requires those convicted to undergo human trafficking education, according to the Meigs Independent Press.
“People who traffic other humans are doing it for a really simple reason — money,” Yost said during the news conference. “And if there’s no market, if there are no buyers, there will be no trafficking.”
Yost acknowledged that the goal of completely eradicating the demand for purchased sex in Ohio “is probably a little bit of a tall order.”
Will targeting the demand significantly reduce human trafficking?
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“But reducing the demand means that we reduce the number of people who are victimized by human