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Ashland County is a county located in the northeastern portion of the U.S. state of Ohio. As of the 2020 census, its population was approximately 53,000, and its county seat and largest city is Ashland (with a population of roughly 20,000). Prostitution activity has been well-documented within the county, and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. In their efforts to deter sex buyers and reduce the scope of the local sex trade, local law enforcement have conducted at least one reverse sting. In May 2015, a collaborative task force led by the METRICH Enforcement Unit placed decoy advertisements suggesting prostitution, and arrested 15 sex buyers who responded to the listings. When asked about the investigation, law enforcement representatives reported they had fielded 144 emails and 153 text messages from individuals interesting in purchasing sex during the sting. Officers investigated 15 men who responded to the advertisement, finding that 75% of that group were city or county residents or currently working in the county and 25% were from surrounding counties. The sex buyers’ names, ages, and addresses were released to the press. Sentences for the 15 men arrested in the May prostitution sweep in Ashland County included jail time, suspension of driver’s licenses, community service, and probation. For example, one man appeared in Ashland County Municipal Court for a scheduled bench trial, but before the trial could begin, his attorney asked to change the plea to guilty to his two charges, which were soliciting sexual acts for hire and possessing criminal tools (both misdemeanors). After accepting the guilty pleas, the court sentenced the defendant to 60 days in jail for the soliciting count and suspended 20 days, resulting in serving 40 days in Ashland County Jail. The court also suspended his driver’s license for six months, fined him $650 between the two charges, placed him on one year of probation, and ordered him to complete 100 hours of community work service. Other sentences included periods of 30 to 60 days in jail (suspended), one year of probation, 200 hours of community services and fines between $250 and $500.
Local arrests of sex buyers have also resulted from investigating allegations against real victims as opposed to being the product of sting operations using police decoys. For example, in April, 2023, a man was indicted in Ashland County Common Pleas Court on eight felony charges, including rape, forced prostitution of a minor, and weapons and domestic violence charges. Since July 15, 2018, the defendant would allegedly give a minor “items of value” or “withhold things she wanted” until she performed sexual acts on him, and then she would be “rewarded.” He was charged with three counts of rape and three counts of compelling prostitution for those acts, all felonies. He had been arrested and jailed on Feb. 27, 2023, when he gave the minor alcohol as an “inducement to perform a sexual act on him.” Immediately after that date, three people, including two minors, accused him of rape. The defendant was also alleged to have wrestled with a minor over a loaded gun he had brandished.
- Ashland County Sheriff’s Office
- METRICH Enforcement Unit
- Ashland Police Department
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.ashlandsource.com/ashland-county-man-indicted-for-rape-forced-prostitution-of-a-minor-domestic-violence (2023)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Ashland and Mansfield Police Organize Prostitution Sweep,” Ashland Times-Gazette, May 21 2015.
- “Ashland Police Detective Discusses Prostitution Arrests,” WMFD-TV 68, May 22 2015.
- “METRICH Prostitution Sweep: 20 of 30 Arrested,” Mansfield News Journal, May 22 2015.
- “Police Roll out Prostitution Bust in Ashland and Mansfield,” Ashland Times-Gazette, May 22 2015.
Background on Sex Trafficking, Prostitution in the Area:
- https://www.richlandsource.com/former-corrections-officer-charged-with-sex-offenses-arrested-in-ashland-county (2018)
- https://www.courtnewsohio.gov/cases/2019/SCO/0409 (2019)
- https://www.ashlandsource.com/ohio-supreme-court-suspends-ashland-attorney-for-sex-with-client-soliciting-prostitution (2019)
- https://www.times-gazette.com/ashland-court-case-sex-trafficking-warning-all-parents (2021)