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.
- 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
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Police Dress up as Prostitutes to Catch Johns; Safety Forces’ Effort Aims to Clean up City”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 18 2006.
- “Cleveland Police Conduct Undercover Prostitution Sting”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 24 2008.
- “Cleveland Teacher Busted for Prostitution Pleads Not Guilty”, CBS/WOIO-TV 19, May 14 2008.
- “Cleveland Police Bust ‘Johns’ in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WKYC-TV 3, October 3 2014.
- “Cleveland Police Round up Hookers, Johns”, WTAM-AM 1100, October 3 2014.
- “Cleveland Police Target Prostitutes and Their Customers in West Side Sting”, ABC/WEWS-TV 5, October 3 2014.
Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “15 Charged in Undercover Prostitution Sting at Cleveland Hotel”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 16 2014.
- https://fox8.com/2019/07/11/authorities-to-release-more-info-on-sex-stings-during-all-star-week/ (2019)
- https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/July-2019/Human-Trafficking-Task-Forces-Arrest-49 (2019)
- https://www.morningjournal.com/local-suspects-arrested-in-human-trafficking-operations (2019)
- https://www.wytv.com/youngstown-men-arrested-in-child-sex-sting-during-all-star-game-in-cleveland/ (2019)
- https://highlandcountypress.com/Chillicothe-man-among-49-arrested-Human-Trafficking-Task-Force-operations-in-Cuyahoga-County (2019)
- “Cable TV to Broadcast Names of Guilty Johns”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 1 1993.
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Four Charged in Prostitution”, Lakeland Ledger, August 22 1974.
- “Prostitute, 12, Flees to Streets to Dull His Pain”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 19 1993.
- “Man Suspected of Using Minors in Sex Ring”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 29 2001.
- “Couple Accused of Running Prostitution Ring”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 12 2002.
- “Law & Order; Cleveland; Prostitution Ring Alleged”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 13 2002.
- “Law & Order; Cleveland; Men Face Additional Charges”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 30 2002.
- “Girl Flees Captors; Sex Ring Busted Teen Was Abducted outside Tower City”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 15 2003.
- “From a Cleveland Street Corner to a Pimp’s House in Detroit; Abducted Girl’s Escape from Sex Ring Brought down ‘Mr. Daddy’”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 17 2003.
- “Teen Hustler’s Story Reveals Boys’ Plight; Desperate Kids Lured into Prostitution, Drugs”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 19 2006.
- “Pair Imprisoned for Running Teen-Prostitution Ring”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 9 2007.
- “The Cleveland Backpage Report: An Analysis of Human Trafficking and the Online Commercial Sex Industry in Northeast Ohio”, Report, Operation Broken Silence & The Imagine Foundation, 2011.
- “Former Catholic Charities Worker Sentenced”, CBS/WOIO-TV 19, April 4 2011.
- “Elyria Man Indicted for Child Sex Trafficking”, CBS/WOIO-TV 19, June 2 2011.
- “Exclusive: Young Girl’s Cry for Help Uncovers Prostitution Ring Which Includes Teen Sex”, CBS/WOIO-TV 19, December 13 2011.
- “Investigator: 15-Year-Old Saved from Sex Ring”, NBC/WKYC-TV 3, January 20 2012.
- “Signs of Human Trafficking Can Stay Hidden in Plain Sight”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 12 2012.
- “Cleveland Woman Sentenced to 6 Years for Kidnapping, Sexual Battery, Prostitution of a Minor”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 30 2012.
- “Cleveland Woman Sentenced for Sex Trafficking Ring Involving Children”, CBS/WOIO-TV 19, November 29 2012.
- “Cleveland Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Prostituting Runaway”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 1 2012.
- “Busted for Prostituting 17-Year-Old Girl”, CBS/WOIO-TV 19, December 31 2012.
- “16-Year-Old Girl Caught in Sex Sting”, CBS/WOIO-TV 19, January 14 2013.
- “Teenage Girls Were ‘Virtual Prisoners’ in Elyria House; Man Charged with Forcing Victims into Drugs, Prostitution”, Plain Dealer, May 10 2013.
- “Ohio Woman Accused of Forcing Teens to Pay Off Drug Debt with Prostitution Enters Guilty Plea”, Columbus Republic, September 21 2013.
- “Edison Man Allegedly Enslaved Women in High-Priced Prostitution Ring”, NJToday.com, November 12 2013.
- “Edison Man Indicted in Alleged Prostitution Ring”, Bergen Record, November 12 2013.
- “Three Men Accused of Prostitution, Sex Charges Involving Missing Berea Teen”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 17 2014.
- “Man Pleads Guilty to Using Heroin to Control Women in Prostitution Ring,” FOX/WJW-TV 8, December 8 2014.
- “3 Indicted for Alleged Sex Trafficking of Minors in Sacramento, Solano Counties,” Sacramento Bee, September 11 2015.
- “Man Interrupts Trial to Plead Guilty to Human Trafficking, Drug Trafficking,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 14 2015.
- https://www.wkyc.com/article/news/gina-dejesus-highlights-human-trafficking-in-cleveland-walk-for-freedom (2018)
- https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/2017 Human Trafficking Commission Report OHIO (2018)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Cleveland to Get Tough on Prostitutes”, Baltimore Afro-American, March 21 1970.
- “Arrest 6 in Prostitution Ring Sweep”, Gettysburg Times, April 12 1972.
- “Prostitutes Active Despite Police Unit”, Portsmouth Times, July 16 1975.
- “Women Sue Policeman Who Jailed Them on Prostitution Charge”, Lakeland Ledger, September 2 1981.
- “Prostitutes’ Tips Lead to Call-Girl Ring”, Akron Beacon Journal, January 22 1989.
- “Browns Warn League about Prostitution Investigation”, Gainesville Sun, February 6 1989.
- “Cleveland City Councilman Eugene Miller to Propose Tougher Penalties for Prostitution”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 27 2013.
- “Proposed Tougher Penalties for Prostitution in Cleveland Likely to See Debate at City Council Safety Committee Meeting”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 3 2013.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Nightmare Hid in City Block Short on Dreams”, NBC News, November 4 2009.
- “11 Bodies, One House of Horrors: Why Cleveland Women Were ‘Invisible’”, CNN, October 26 2010.
- “The Other Serial Killer”, Cleveland Magazine, July 2012.
- https://lawandcrime.com/crazy/prosecutors-now-say-they-corroborated-serial-killers-link-to-deaths-of-60-women/ (2019)
- https://cuyahogacounty.us/cuyahoga-county-news-now/news-detail/cuyahoga-county-news-now/2018/01/11/human-trafficking-what-you-need-to-know (2018)
- https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/oh-summit/new-rise-program-gives-hope-to-human-trafficking-victims (2019)