Chillicothe, 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

Chillicothe is a city of approximately 22,000 residents in southern Ohio, located roughly 50 miles south of Columbus. Police have long known of the prostitution problem within the city and surrounding areas. A wide range of additional crimes associated with the local sex trade have also been documented, including child sex trafficking and prostitution-related homicide. Police have said the primary connection between the majority of homicide cases, has been a history of drug abuse and prostitution — issues that often are closely linked. In 2014, at least six women disappeared in the city; three of the six women were found dead in local waterways, one was found shot to death, and the remaining two were still missing in mid-2016.

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. For example, in a March 2017 reverse sting, police partners were “shocked” by the level of prostitution in Chillicothe. Police averaged an arrest an hour over the two-day operation, ultimately charging 11 men and two women. At times, several cars were circling the same woman and officers took note of their license plates and planned to send them “a friendly letter” stating that the activity they appeared to be engaging in was illegal (i.e., a “dear john” letter). Solicitation arrests were accomplished through sting operations with an undercover officer, to get evidence of the transaction on tape. In an effort to put together a more efficient operation, Chillicothe has partnered with the Dayton Police Department to have several Chillicothe officers trained. Dayton police assisted with the 2017 operation, but the goal was for Chillicothe to be able to conduct operations without that technical assistance. The operation was conducted over 12 hours with assistance from the Dayton Police Department Narcotics Bureau Street Crime Unit, Ohio Highway Patrol, and Ross County Sheriff’s Office. Efforts targeted known areas of prostitution based on surveillance and community complaints, including the intersection of Bridge and Second streets. The sting was part of the department’s efforts to combat not only human trafficking, but the drug trade. The men were charged with third-degree misdemeanors which carry no more than 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. Police hoped media exposure of operations would help deter those convicted of soliciting sex from doing so again and maybe scare off others who weren’t caught. Among the prosecutions from the March 2017 operation, four men with defense attorneys struck deals and pled guilty to soliciting, while the loitering charges were dropped, lowering a combined $500 fine to $250 for the men, and $100 for the one female who pled guilty. Combined fines and court costs ranged from $120 to $726, with one man permitted to do 59 hours of community service in lieu of his $250 fine, according to Chillicothe Municipal Court online records. The men were also ordered to stay away from the areas where they were arrested — Second, Bridge, and Mulberry streets — and police towed their vehicles.

Local police have expressed hope that judges will sentence those convicted of soliciting to take part in a john school, so the offenders can learn the scope of impact on those prostituting and their families. Chillicothe Police Chief Washburn said, “Educating these guys using the John school is probably the best thing”.  Other cities in Ohio have added additional consequences through local ordinances. For example, a first-time soliciting offender in Cincinnati can expect a $1,000 fine, have their car impounded, and are required to go to “john school” — a one-day class that costs the offender $500.

Key Partners

  • Chillicothe Police Department
  • Dayton Police Department Narcotics Bureau Street Crime Unit
  • Ohio Highway Patrol
  • Ross County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure, Letters:

Community Service, SOAP Order:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Ohio
Type City
Population 22009
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