Canton is a city of 73,000 in eastern Ohio’s Stark County. Prostitution and sex trafficking (of both adults and minors) have posed problems in the city for several decades. Among the many issues associated with the community’s local commercial sex market have been the murder of prostituted women. For example, in August 2012, a pimp and two prostituted women (all of whom operated in Canton) drove a third prostituted woman from Canton to Muskingum County, where they beat her, choked her and set her on fire as punishment for snitching. She survived for two days after a motorist found her on Rt. 208 near Zanesville, burned over 70 percent of her body. The women pled guilty to aggravated murder, aggravated arson and kidnapping in exchange for their lives and their testimony against the pimp, who was sentenced to life for homicide and other offenses. A friend of the murdered woman, who also worked in prostitution in Canton, had previously been abducted, raped and left without clothing in a rural area. In the mid-1990s, two local prostituted women were similarly driven to the city’s outskirts and attacked; one survived.
In an effort to reduce prostitution activity in the community, the Canton Police Department conducts periodic reverse stings targeting johns. These operations, conducted at street-level using female undercover officers as decoys, have been deployed since at least 1988. That same year, then CPD Police Chief Thomas Wyatt called for the impoundment of johns’ vehicles, although it remains unclear if this tactic was ever used. In 1989, members of the local media also reported that the department had used surveillance cameras to intercept a john soliciting sex from a prostituted woman. More recently, four men were arrested during “dual” sting operation (targeting both johns and prostituted women) in October 2014. CPD officers reported they were assisted during the operation by colleagues from the nearby Jackson Township Police Department.
Canton Police also offer the names of and other identifying information about arrested sex buyers to the public, although the city’s largest newspaper (The Canton Repository) has stated it will not publicize the information. In the early 1990s, city officials partnered with the local Warner Cable syndicate to air the names and arrest photos of individuals arrested for prostitution-related offenses on a public access station. It is unclear how long, if ever, the show aired. In 2006, however, the CPD announced it would begin listing arrest information for individuals convicted of prostitution-related offenses on its website (available here).
For their part, local residents and business owners have also attempted to reduce underlying demand for prostitution. In 2003 and 2004, residents living in the Newton area staged a march and accompanying rally against prostitution and solicitation occurring in front of their homes. Around the same time, Canton Repository journalists reported that, in investigating online prostitution, they discovered posts on local message boards from johns warning other would-be sex buyers to avoid the Newton area because residents had mounted eight surveillance cameras and would “jump out into the street with digital and video cameras to record their activity” to share with police. Soon after, a CPD representative announced the department had begun sending “Dear John” letters to the homes of arrested sex buyers.
- Canton Police Department
- Neighborhood Impact and Vice Units
- Special Investigations Unit
- Neighborhood associations
- Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Canton after Hooker Clients,” Toledo Blade, October 27 1988.
- “Canton Prostitution Crackdown,” Akron Beacon Journal, October 28 1988.
- “Canton Woman Charged with Soliciting Prostitute,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 8 1993.
- “Can’t Keep Prostitutes in Jail It’s Simply Too Crowded in the Stark County Lockup, So the Risky Police Work in a Weekend Stings Ends Up with Defendants Going Right Back to the Streets,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 23 1993.
- “Daytime Flings Run Afoul of Law; 2 Arrested for Allegedly Trying to Solicit Prostitutes in Canton’s 3rd Sting in 5 Weeks — This One at Lunchtime,” Akron Beacon Journal, July 2 1993.
- “Canton Vice Squad Picks up Customers; Prostitution Visible in the Hot Weather, No Room at Stark Jail,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 21 1995.
- “Canton Goes after Prostitution; Undercover Operation Targets Both Hookers and Clients in Northwest Area,” Akron Beacon Journal, March 17 1999.
- “Barberton Teacher, Four Others Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Canton Repository, July 30 2009.
- “Phila Man among 5 Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” New Philadelphia Times Reporter, July 31 2009.
- “Eight Arrested on Prostitution, Soliciting Charges; Canton Police, with Help from Jackson Township Officers, Arrested Eight People in Two Recent Prostitution-Related Sting Operations,” Canton Repository, October 7 2014.
- “Canton to Name Johns on Television; Prostitution Crackdown Will Include Identifying the Convicted Customers in Plan Pushed by Councilman,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 24 1993.
- “Warner Shines Spotlight on Hookers,” Multichannel News, July 5 1993.
- “Letters: So What If Prostitution Is Only a Misdemeanor? Rep Is Copping out by Not Printing Names,” Canton Repository, May 20 2006.
- “Canton to Post Names, Photos of Prostitutes, Johns on Its Web Site,” Canton Repository, June 1 2006.
- “Canton’s Web Site Pictures Prostitutes: Convicted Hookers, Johns Online for Year,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 3 2006.
- “Rep Will Leave to City the Job of Naming Prostitutes, Patrons,” Canton Repository, June 4 2006.
- Auto Seizure:
- “Sex Solicitors Told to Expect a ‘Dear John'”, Canton Repository, March 24 2004.
- “Council Hopeful Charged, Accusation Is Soliciting Sex,” Akron Beacon Journal, September 27 1989.
- “Sex Finder Warns to Avoid Hooker Hangout,” Canton Repository, July 10 2004.
- Neighborhood Action:
- “Newton NW Area Residents, City Want Hookers, Pimps Out,” Canton Repository, September 12 2003.
- “March vs. Prostitution Attracts 60,” Canton Repository, September 21 2003.
- “Residents Hope to Rid Streets of Prostitutes,” Canton Repository, October 4 2003.
- “Sex Finder Warns to Avoid Hooker Hangout,” Canton Repository, July 10 2004.
- “Residents Making Progress in Fight vs. Prostitution,” Canton Repository, November 7 2004.
- “NE Residents Demand Action against Crime,” Canton Repository, April 19 2005.
- “35 Residents March against Prostitution,” Canton Repository, May 14 2006.
- “Chasing Hookers, Canton Father Sparks New State Law Keeping Prostitutes Away from Schools,” Canton Repository, June 24 2008.
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “7 Face Trial on White Slave Charges,” Schenectady Gazette, September 15 1942.
- “Man Accused of Using Runaway as Hooker,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 12 1985.
- “Rape, Kidnap Alleged; Stark Teens Accuse 2 Men,” Akron Beacon Journal, November 17 1989.
- “Abduction Hearing Continued,” Akron Beacon Journal, November 22 1989.
- “Abduction Hearing Delayed,” Akron Beacon Journal, December 19 1989.
- “Crime Reports; Canton,” Canton Repository, November 17 2001.
- “Man Gets Prison for Leading Girl to Prostitution,” Canton Repository, January 15 2002.
- “Man Prostituted Teens, U.S. Says: Suspect Lured Girl from Indiana, File Says,” Chicago Tribune, July 26 2006.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “White Slave Ring Broken, Seven Named,” Milwaukee Journal, August 18 1942.
- “Canton Ordinance Would Require Licenses for Massage Services,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 12 1987.
- “Part of Canton Hooker Law Overturned,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 8 1988.
- “Convicted Hooker Setting Record in Canton Court,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 1 1990.
- “Putting out the Red Lights; Canton Officials and Businesses View Prostitution as a Blight on the Downtown,” Akron Beacon Journal, July 11 1993.
- “Trio to Go on Foot Patrol; Canton Adds Police Beats Downtown in Effort to Help City’s Rebirth, Rid Business Area of Prostitution,” Akron Beacon Journal, March 1 1994.
- “Canton Files Lawsuit to Close Hotel, City Says Inn Is Public Nuisance that Caters to Prostitutes,” Akron Beacon Journal, December 15 2001.
- “Hotel Owner to Fight Closure Efforts,” Canton Repository, December 16 2001.
- “Women Testify against Officer, Policeman Accused of Asking for Sex Favors from Canton Prostitutes,” Akron Beacon Journal, December 21 2002.
- “Arrests of Prostitutes in 1963 Give Rep Readers a Glimpse Inside Brothels,” Canton Repository, April 5 2004.
- “Working the ‘John Detail'”, Canton Repository, May 10 2006.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Arrests,” Canton Repository, October 12 2006.
- “Canton Police Arrest Eight Women on Prostitution Charges,” Canton Repository, September 12 2008.
- “Woman Arrested in Prostitution Sweep Carried Steak Knife, Crack Pipe,” Canton Repository, September 14 2008.
- “Four Arrested in ‘Known’ Prostitution and Drug House, Police Say,” Canton Repository, January 5 2010.
- “Operation Street Walkers Nabs Prostitution Suspects,” Canton Repository, August 11 2010.
- “Accused Prostitute Tries to Get into Moving Car,” Canton Repository, September 20 2011.
- “Canton Police Arrest 8 on Prostitution Charges,” Canton Repository, June 13 2012.
- Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Slain Woman Linked to Mob; Federal Records Show Victim Indicted with 10 in Early ’70s,” Akron Beacon Journal, September 6 1990.
- “Woman Linked to Mob-Run Machine,” Akron Beacon Journal, September 6 1990.
- “Woman Found Dead in Gully Had Been Prostitute in Canton; Coroner Rules Strangulation Death to Be a Homicide,” Akron Beacon Journal, October 25 1991.
- “Burned Woman a Canton Prostitute Stark Coroner Says Victim Found in Road Died of Strangulation, Burning,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 21 1993.
- “Search Is on for 2 Men in Death of Prostitute,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 22 1993.
- “Stabbing Victim Reached in Time, Stark Dispatchers Hear Request for Ambulance through Faulty Equipment; Woman Is Hospitalized,” Akron Beacon Journal, April 20 1994.
- “Stark Woman Knifed, Beaten; Convicted Prostitute ‘Lucky to Be Alive’ after Attack, Police Say,” Akron Beacon Journal, April 21 1994.
- “Uhrichsville Man Arrested after Reporting Theft by Prostitutes,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 9 2006.
- “Client Says 2 Prostitutes Cheated, Robbed Him; Police Charge Man with Soliciting for Prostitution after He Reports Incident,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 10 2006.
- “Arrest Made in Gruesome Case of Burned Ohio Woman,” Associated Press, August 31 2012.
- “Life on the Streets Has Brutal End,” Canton Repository, September 2 2012.
- “New Arrests in Gruesome Case of Burned Ohio Woman,” Associated Press, September 4 2012.
- “Ohio Women Indicted in Gruesome Death,” Associated Press, September 5 2012.
- “‘KC’ Culberson Details Fronsman Beating, Burning,” Canton Repository, October 9 2013.
- “Prosecutor: Canton Woman Burned while Attackers Watched,” Columbus Dispatch, October 9 2013.
- “Jury Recommends Life for Killer Who Set Woman on Fire,” Columbus Dispatch, October 23 2013.