Akron, OH

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Cameras
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
Letters
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Akron is a city of approximately 200,000 residents, located south of Cleveland in Summit County, Ohio. Situated at the crossroads of Interstate 76 and 77, the city has struggled with chronic prostitution and sex trafficking activity along major roadways for decades. To address the issue, the Akron Police Department has adopted an aggressive approach to identify and apprehend sex buyers. Officers began conducting street-level reverse stings in the mid-1980s, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. Operations at times in the 2010s were routinely conducted, resulting in an average of 300 prostitution-related arrests per year. As of 1986, Akron police could seize and impound a sex buyer’s vehicle, depending upon the circumstances of the arrest.

In 1994, the APD also began posting arrestees’ names and other identifying information to the department’s website, in the hopes of deterring other potential offenders. In 2004, the Akron Police Department began posting information about arrested buyers in its “Operation John-B-Gone” list on its website. The online program, which targeted convicted prostituted persons and their customers, includes the buyer’s photograph, name, age, address, and conviction.

City law enforcement has emphasized the importance of community self-policing, and has frequently pursued tips from local residents about suspected prostitution activity. Citizens, for their part, responded by establishing several successful neighborhood watch programs. While the majority focused on increased engagement with police and civic leaders, others like the East Akron Community House, who instituted a “court watch” initiative in the 1980s to monitor solicitor’s convictions, targeted demand directly.

While Akron has not had a formal “john school” program, arrested sex buyers have sometimes been offered a “diversion program” that addresses similar issues. For example, at least one sex buyer was provided the opportunity to pay a $175 fee and take five 90-minute classes on topics such as court processes, the impact of crime on victims, decision-making skills, anger management, and substance abuse. We have not classified this as a john school because it was a generic course designed as a diversion option for all “low-level” criminals, and did not contain any content designed to specifically address sex buying, prostitution, or sex trafficking. Moreover, the City Council later made the diversion inaccessible to arrested sex buyers, as the program was considered to be a means of avoiding punishment.

Another consequence of buying sex in Akron is the loss of employment. For example, in October 2021, a former Akron Children’s Hospital employee and Canfield firefighter was arrested and charged with compelling prostitution and possessing criminal tools in East Palestine. The man worked part-time at the Cardinal Joint Fire District in Canfield, where he was placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of his criminal case. The man also worked at Akron Children’s Hospital, where he had no direct contact with patients. A spokesperson there said they fired the man upon learning of the allegations and planned to cooperate with law enforcement. The man had allegedly responded to an ad placed by a Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force agent on a known prostitution website for a mother offering her 15-year-old daughter for sex in exchange for money. He requested sexual conduct with the teen in exchange for cash, and on October 8 he left work early at Akron Children’s Hospital and drove to a designated meeting place in East Palestine where he was taken into custody by police.

In recent years, the Akron Police Department has worked with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office on a number of web-based reverse stings. You can read more about these operations on the page for Summit County.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Identity Disclosure:

Web-Based Stings:

Loss of Employment:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Neighborhood Action:

Background on Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Ohio
Type City
Population 198051
Location
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