Cleveland Heights, OH

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Cleveland Heights is a city in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland. The city’s population is roughly 45,000. The Cuyahoga County region has experienced a wide range of negative events associated with the local commercial sex market. For example,in March, 2018, a Cleveland Heights man appeared in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Thursday after a grand jury indicted him on involuntary manslaughter, human trafficking, promoting prostitution, trafficking in fentanyl and the club-drug molly and other charges. The investigation started when an 18-year-old woman who overdosed was dropped off at a local hospital. Surveillance video picked up the license plate of the car that dropped her off, and investigators tracked it to the defendant, and obtained a search warrant for his apartment where they found the drugs producing the overdose.  Cleveland Heights police arrested the man on drug trafficking charges and continued their investigation.  Two others involved in the same case were charged with human trafficking and promoting prostitution.  The primary defendant had been released from prison after serving two years in prison on domestic violence and weapons charges, for brandishing a 9mm pistol and threatening to shoot the mother of his 10-day-old child.

Other examples include a case in December, 2018, when police responded to a report that threats had been made against a man who had met a woman on a Chinese social media cell phone app. The woman had suggested a date and place to meet, and then messaged the man via the app and said she was a prostitute and that she needed the man to speak to “her boss.” The boss called the sex buyer and instructed him to go to a local drugstore and buy a $200 gift card and send the card’s serial numbers as instructed, and when he had done so, was next instructed him to buy a $3,000 card. Then the man refused, he was threatened on the app and through text messages, with the boss stating he was a member of a violent crime organization and that he would send someone to kill him.

In addition to extortion and threats, there have been cases of HIV-positive prostituted persons continuing to sell sex, assaults of both prostituted persons and their clients, human trafficking of adults and children, and homicides that specifically targeted those engaged in prostitution. For example, in 2019, the FBI announced that convicted murderer Samuel Little confessed to murdering 93 women, and authorities have been able to confirm his connection to 60 of those killings. He was indicted in Hamilton County and Cuyahoga County for the murder of women, many of whom were involved in prostitution.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. For example, in February, 2013, a man was arrested after propositioning his masseuse in Cleveland Heights and, then, lying to police about his name. The man had made an appointment with a massage therapist, and when she came into the massage room he was naked and holding a condom, asked her to put it on him, and offered her another $60 for sex. The massage therapist called the Cleveland Heights Police Department and officers soon found the man at a nearby intersection.  Officers arrested him and charged him with soliciting prostitution, and he had two outstanding arrest warrants. The Cleveland Heights Police Department has collaborated with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies to conduct reverse stings in its efforts to combat prostitution and sex trafficking.

Key Partners

  • Cleveland Heights Police Department
  • Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office
  • Cuyahoga County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
  • Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force

Key Sources

Arrest and Shaming of Sex Buyer:

Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:

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 44562
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