Austintown, OH is a census-designated place within Austintown Township, in Mahoning County. It has a population of approximately 30,000 residents, and is located near Youngstown, in Mahoning County, Ohio. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Mahoning county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are homicide and child sex trafficking. For example, in the 1980s and early 1990s, prostitution at truck stops in and near Austintown were known to have high levels of commercial sex activity, and by 1991 a special task force had been established to investigate the homicide of twelve women known to be engaged in prostitution at Austintown and other area truck stops. Local police agencies and the FBI in Ohio also had cracked down on truck stop soliciting, in part because of the growing number of murdered women, and had also made numerous arrests for transporting minors across state lines for prostitution. At the Union 76 stop at Austintown, security booths had been built to admit only truckers, and undercover Austintown police patrolled the parking lots several nights a week. While the level of activity at truckstops in Austintown was reduced in the 1990s, it was never eliminated. For example, in 2015 a woman was arrested after an investigation revealed a massage parlor near an Austintown truck stop ws operated as a front for a brothel and a money laundering operation. In 2016 a man was arrested and charged with promoting prostitution and taken to Mahoning County Jail after being observed at the Plaza 76 truck stop picking up a woman, and admitted to officers that he served as her pimp, and had brought the woman to Plaza 76 so she could meet with a truck driver for sex.
To combat demand for commercial sex, the Austintown Police Department has expanded the crackdown on the online sex trade to include customers. Police had previously been making prostitution arrests after undercover officers answered escort ads posted on online classified websites like backpage.com and Craigslist. In August of 2017, police conducted an online reverse sting, posting an ad placed by an undercover officer in the online “Women Seeking Men” dating section of a website. Two township police officers and an agent from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation posed as “April” and a man allegedly answered the ad, and sent explicit texts and offered to pay $60 for “full service” which is a term used in the sex trade for oral sex and intercourse. The man sent a picture of his penis to them and agreed to meet near a motel along Route 46 near Interstate 80. When police spotted the pickup truck described in the texts, the buyer was placed under arrest, and had three $20 bills, condoms and the phone they say he used to communicate with “April”. He was booked into the Mahoning County Jail on charges of soliciting sex and possessing criminal tools. Authorities consider cell phones used in the commission of a crime a criminal tool.
Austintown police arrested two other men who responded to “men seeking men” online ads. In those cases, police posed as 15 and 17-year-old boys, and suspects were charged for alleged sex crimes involving a juvenile – including soliciting sex, disseminating material harmful to juveniles, and possessing criminal tools. Police say one of the men sent a text answering an ad posted by an officer in the “Men Seeking Men” dating section, and said it was no problem when the undercover officer sent him a message saying he was only 17-years-old. The officer says the man then offered him $50 to $100 for sex and asked him to send him a picture of his genitals. Previously, a man was charged with two felonies after being arrested by an officer who was posing as a 15-year-old boy.
In January, 2021 an Austintown man was arrested and charged in connection with a prostitution investigation, on a thirteen-count felony indictment handed up by the Mahoning County Grand Jury. The Woodland Trace resident was charged with seven counts of rape, 4 counts of gross sexual imposition, and two counts of compelling prostitution. His identity was included in news releases.
- Austintown Police Department
- Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation
- Ohio’s Interstate Homicide Task Force
- Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- http://www.wfmj.com/story/36038371/gummy-worms-used-as-lure-in-austintown-sex-sting (2018)
- https://www.wfmj.com/story/43187527/austintown-man-arrested-on-prostitution-charges (2021)
Background on Local Prostitution:
- https://www.upi.com/Archives/1987/04/01/I-71-murder-victim-talked-with-police-before-disappearing/6359544251600/ (1987)
- http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1991-06-16/news/9106150547_1_truckers-austintown-truck-stops (1991)
- http://www.wfmj.com/story/29897107/indictment-austintown-business-front-for-prostitution-and-money-laundering (2015)
- https://www.nbc4i.com/news/ohio-man-charged-with-promoting-prostitution-after-bringing-woman-to-truck-plaza (2016)
- http://www.wfmj.com/story/35153209/three-arrested-in-austintown-crackdown-on-backpage-prostitution (2017)
- http://wkbn.com/2018/03/30/austintown-crime-activity-suspects-arrested-during-prostitution-sting/ (2018)
- http://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/3-arrested-during-prostitution-investigation-in-austintown (2018)
- http://www.wfmj.com/story/38948539/two-women-arrested-in-austintown-after-being-caught-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://www.wfmj.com/story/37900591/austintown-pd-three-charged-in-prostitution-investigation (2018)
- http://www.wfmj.com/story/38105325/austintown-police-ask-masseuse-to-wear-nurses-outfit (2018)