Bluffton is a village in Allen and Hancock counties in Ohio, and has a population of about 4,100. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the town and in nearby communities (such as Findlay), and in unincorporated areas of Hancock 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 is child sex trafficking. For example, in 2013, the FBI and local police raided massage parlors in Findlay, which were part of a ring for Asian prostitution and human 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. To identify and apprehend local sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and municipal police have conducted reverse stings. For example, in December, 2014 the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office conducted an undercover operation in Bluffton, and arrested two men for solicitation of prostitution. The location of the arrests was not released. The Hancock-METRICH Enforcement Unit and the Wood County Sheriff’s Office assisted the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office in the reverse sting.
In December, 2016 an undercover operation targeting human trafficking in Bluffton resulted in the arrest of four male sex buyers. The arrested men were charged in Findlay Municipal Court with soliciting prostitution, and their identities were included in news releases. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Hancock — METRICH Criminal Task Force and the Wood County Sheriff’s Office. The operation ran from 4 p.m. to about 11 p.m. on one day. The location could not be released as it is used by police for other undercover operations. The operation involved undercover officers posing as prostituted women; the officer would make plans to meet with the suspect and would talk to them before charging them with a crime if they produce enough evidence for probable cause, then the team goes in and makes the arrest.
- Hancock County Sheriff’s Office
- Hancock — METRICH Criminal Task Force
- Wood County Sheriff’s Office
Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- https://otfca.net/sex-trafficking-arrests-made-in-bluffton/ (2014)
- https://otfca.net/five-arrested-in-undercover-human-trafficking-investigation/ (2016)
- https://www.limaohio.com/news/218115/human-trafficking-sting-in-bluffton-results-in-charges (2016)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- “Findlay Couple Convicted of Promoting Prostitution”, Bryan Times, September 25 1996.
- “Four Face Prostitution-Related Charges”, Findlay Courier, November 8 2010.
- “Prostitution Charges Tied to National Sting”, Findlay Courier, November 10 2010.
- “Woman Enters Plea to Procuring Charge”, Findlay Courier, January 28 2011.
- “Man Charged in Prostitution Sting Pleads to Lesser Charge”, Findlay Courier, February 4 2011.
- “Judge Sentences Toledo Man on Procuring Charge”, Findlay Courier, March 25 2011.
- “FBI Raids Massage Parlors in Findlay, Toledo”, ABC/WTVG-TV 13, November 8 2013.
- “Prostitution ‘big’ in region; online ads lure customers,” Findlay Courier, April 23, 2016.
- https://thecourier.com/breaking-news/2018/11/16/seven-women-arrested-in-hancock-county-prostitution-probe/ (2018)