Canton, OH

Tactics Used

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

Canton is a city of 70,000 in eastern Ohio’s Stark County. Prostitution and sex trafficking of both adults and minors have posed problems in the city for several decades. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are violence against prostituted people and sex trafficking of adults and minors. For example, in August of 2012, a sex trafficker/pimp and two prostituted women (all of whom operated in Canton, OH) drove a third prostituted woman from Canton to Muskingum County, where they beat her, choked her, and set her on fire as revenge for exposing the sex trafficker/pimp as a drug dealer. She survived for two days after a motorist found her on Rt. 208 near Zanesville with over 70 percent of her body burned. The women pled guilty to aggravated murder, aggravated arson, and kidnapping in exchange for their lives and their testimony against the sex trafficker/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 May 2022, it was announced that a Stark County man would spend 15 years in federal prison for forcing women to live in a Canton-area home, take drugs, and perform sex acts in 2018. Advertisements for the women were posted on websites associated with prostitution, according to the federal complaint. The two women were held at an undisclosed Canton-area home for three months, and according to federal court records, given drugs that included heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine to create addictions that forced the women to rely upon the offender for more. The offender resident reached a plea agreement with federal investigators, pleading guilty to conspiracy to sex trafficking. In addition to prison time, the man was ordered a lifetime of supervised release, sex offender registration, restitution to both victims in the amount of $1,885 per victim, and a $5,000 special assessment fee be paid to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The Canton Police Chief said in a statement that the case was an excellent example of law enforcement collaboration. His agency worked with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the FBI Canton Office.

Canton Police also provides the names 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).

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 sex buyers 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.

The Central Canton Weed and Seed Initiative, which was established in 2007, created a new program designed to educate the community about prostitution in efforts to reduce overall prostitution rates in Stark County called Off the Streets and Into Recovery in 2008. From 2006 to 2008, the Neighborhood Impact Unit had identified 90 individuals in the central Canton region who engaged in prostitution activity. The program was a collaborative effort from community organizations such as the Stark County TASC (Treatment Accountability for a Safer Community), Crisis Recovery Center, Canton Health Department, Pregnancy Support Center, Renew Counseling Center, IMPACT, Melymbrosia, Coleman Behavioral Health, and Trillium Family Solutions.

Loss of employment is also a consequence that sex buyers face in the city. For example, three Canton police officers were suspended on unpaid administrative leave and one officer resigned from duty as a result of an investigation into the overdose of a prostituted woman. According to reports, investigators found messages demonstrating one of the officers had met the overdose victim through and met with her to engage in commercial sex. The three additional officers, whose names were redacted in the official complaint were allegedly communicating with the woman about prostitution and steroids. The identities of the arrested offenders were eventually released by local news sources.

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings:

Identity Disclosure:

Auto Seizure:


  • “Sex Solicitors Told to Expect a ‘Dear John'”, Canton Repository, March 24 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.

Loss of Employment:

Sex Buyer Arrests:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

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:

State Ohio
Type City
Population 70426
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