Cuyahoga County, OH

Tactics Used

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

Cuyahoga County is located in northeastern Ohio, and its population center is the city of Cleveland. The county also contains a number of other communities that have sex trafficking and prostitution problems substantial enough to have used demand reduction tactics, including Beachwood, Brook Park, Cleveland Heights, Newburgh Heights, and Orange.  The county has experienced a wide range of negative events associated with the local commercial sex market, including HIV-positive prostituted women 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 who were involved in prostitution.

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office has collaborated with city police departments, state and federal agencies, and multi-jurisdictional task forces to conduct street-level reverse stings since 1976, and more recently, has added web-based reversals to its array of efforts to combat demand.  As street stings typically utilize undercover female officers, operations have at times involved “dual-sweeps,” where officers initially saturate a targeted area and arrest all prostituted women in the vicinity, then replace them with female police decoys along the same streets.Web-based operations have included large scale actions and those seeking sex with children.  For example, in July 2019 the Ohio Attorney and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor announced stings in Northeast Ohio carried out during MLB All-Star Week.  Investigators called the efforts “Operation Triple Play” and “Operation Home Run.” At least 49 adults went to court on charges of soliciting prostitution, and other offenses including felony charges of Attempted Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor, Importuning, Possess Criminal Tools and Attempting Corruption with Drugs.  These and other offenses occurred when offenders chatted online with officers posing as teens, and arranged to purchase sex. Undercover agents from the Cuyahoga County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force participated in the operations, with the arrests targeting human trafficking around local hotels. Those arrested for trying to purchase sex with children ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s. The AG’s Office posted a news release that included the identities of all 49 people arrested.  Across both operations, participating law enforcement agencies included: The Ohio Attorney General’s Office; Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force (Columbus Division of Police, Ohio Investigative Unit), Mahoning County Human Trafficking Task Force (Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation), Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force (Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Independence Police Department), the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Office of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, Newburgh Heights Police Department, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cleveland Police, U.S. Secret Services, Austintown Township Police Department, Solon Police Department, Streetsboro Police Department, Cortland Police Department and the Kent Police Department.


Key Partners

  • Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office
  • Cuyahoga County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
  • Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force (Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Independence Police Department),
  • Cleveland Police Department
  • Detroit Shoreway Weed and Seed Initiative
  • The Mokita Center
  • Montgomery County’s Neighbors Against Drugs (NAD) Program
  • The Imagine Foundation
  • Operation Broken Silence

Key Sources

Street-Level Reverse Stings:

Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:


  • “Cable TV to Broadcast Names of Guilty Johns”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 1 1993.

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 County
Population 1249000
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