COLUMBUS (WKBN/WCMH) – Over a dozen men have been arrested locally as a result of a statewide anti-human trafficking operation, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office announced Monday. A total of 45 missing children have been found across the state.
According to the U.S. Marshals, Operation Autumn Hope was a multi-agency enforcement operation focused on human trafficking and the location and recovery of missing and exploited children in Ohio throughout the month of October. It aimed to:
- Rescue victims of human trafficking and refer them to social services
- Recover missing and exploited children
- Apprehend those seeking to have sex with a minor
- Arrest male johns seeking to buy sex
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost was joined by federal, state and local law enforcement to announce the results of the statewide effort. He believes it is the largest anti-human trafficking operation in Ohio’s history.
During the operation, 177 were arrested and 109 survivors were rescued across the state.
A total of 76 missing and exploited children cases have been cleared as a result of this operation, including 45 children who law enforcement actually found.
Sheriff Jerry Greene said several law enforcement agencies worked together last week in an online undercover sex sting in Mahoning County. Fourteen were arrested, accused of sex crimes against children.
The U.S. Marshals office says during one of the missing child recoveries, a loaded gun was recovered. The 15-year-old boy had two warrants and is suspected in multiple shootings and a homicide.
Another case involved a high-risk 15-year-old girl who was missing from Cleveland. Information developed from that recovery linked her and other possible victims to an individual in Columbus suspected of human trafficking.
During the operation, the Lancaster Police Department requested assistance in locating a 14-year-old girl who was reported missing in the middle of the night. The U.S. Marshals found the girl in Columbus within six hours of being reported missing.
An additional recovery of two juveniles occurred when the USMS Southern Ohio task force forwarded information to Marshals in West Virginia. A recovery of the missing juveniles occurred on a traffic stop after the W.V. State Patrol was informed to be on the lookout for the man and the vehicle he was driving. The man was charged with concealment/removal of a minor child in Jackson County, WV.
“My thanks to all personnel who have stepped up for this operation,” said Peter C. Tobin, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio. “These are the same personnel who hunt down violent fugitives every day. I’m incredibly proud of them and pleased that they were able to apply those same skills to finding missing children. I know Operation Autumn Hope has made a difference in a lot of young lives.”
Over the past five years, the USMS says it has recovered missing children in 75% of the cases it has received.
More stories from WKBN.com: