Jefferson County is located in eastern Ohio, and has a population of about 66,000. Its county seat is Steubenville, a city of approximately 20,000 residents . Prostitution has been a persistent and visible problem in the area for decades, and has been linked to local related crimes including targeted homicides of women offering commercial sex, and forced prostitution of minors. Guided by community complaints, are law enforcement agencies periodically conduct street-level reverse stings in an effort to curtail demand for commercial sex. Operations typically employ an undercover female officer, who poses as a decoy. When johns attempt to solicit sex from her, they are apprehended by police. To deter other would-be sex buyers, police routinely release arrestees’ names and other identifying information to the local media. For example, in January 2011, the Steubenville Police Department conducted a phone-based sting that culminated in the arrest of a john attempting to buy sex from what he thought was a 14-year-old girl. After officers were notified that the man was actively searching the city’s downtown area for underaged prostituted girls, the department launched a reverse sting. A police employee posed as a 14-year-old girl and made contact with the man by phone. The john then solicited sex from the officer, and arranged for the two to meet. When he arrived, he was arrested by police. His name was also disclosed to the local media. This event illustrates the presence of a local market for commercial sexual exploitation of children.
In 2019, four men were arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution during a sting operation conducted by the Jefferson County Drug Task Force. Drug Task Force Office Jason Hanlin said a male and a female undercover officer from the Weirton police department were used in the police operation. All arrested individuals were issued a summons to appear in Steubenville Municipal Court. The sting operation took place in the 500 block of North Street and the 200 block of South Fourth Street. The City Manager announced the sting operation was organized “because of a request made a couple of months ago by 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna and several local business owners.”
- Jefferson County Drug Task Force
- Steubenville Police Department
Brothel Raids with John Arrests:
- “Lady in Black Raids Lair of Scarlet Women; 34 Men Arrested after Her March on Steubenville Area,” Toledo Blade, June 8 1953.
Street-Level Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “Police Arrest 15 in Prostitution Sting”, Steubenville Herald-Star, August 21 2008.
- “15 Men Arrested in Steubenville Sting”, Weirton Daily Times, June 19 2009.
- “Police: Man Sought Teen Prostitute for Months”, NBC/WTOV-TV 9, January 13 2011.
- “6 Arrested During Steubenville Prostitution Sting”, NBC/WTOV-TV 9, August 4 2011.
- “Council Talks Crime, Prostitution Prevention,” Steubenville Herald-Star, January 29 2015.
- “Six of Nine Men Arrested in a Prostitution Sting Plead No Contest or Guilty,” NBC/WTOV-TV 9, October 28 2015.
- http://www.heraldstaronline.com/news/local-news/2015/10/prostitution-sting-nabs-nine-on-charges/ (2015)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Ohio Mayor Ousted for Permitting Vice,” Milwaukee Journal, October 14 1926.
- “23 Indicted in Steubenville Vice Inquiry,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 1 1947.
- “Wheeling Acts to Stop Influx of Vice Groups; Steubenville Crowd Will Be Kept Out, Police Chief Warns,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 21 1952.
- “Mann Act Suspect Gives Up,” Miami News, July 2 1954.
- “Cops Close Steubenville Vice Spots; Mayor’s Order Puts Lights Out — For a While at Least,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 21 1958.
- “Steubenville Police Cracking Down on Prostitution”, NBC/WTOV-9, August 5 2011.
- “Prostitution Sting Arrests Draw Attention to Bigger Issues,” NBC/WTOV-TV 9, July 9 2015.
- “Prosecutor Talks about Prostitution Problem,” Wheeling News-Register, September 8 2015.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “1 Suspected in Highway Hooker Deaths,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 9 1987.
- “Body Found in Forest,” Beaver County Times, August 23 2001.
- “2 Held in Death of Woman; 2 Victims’ Bodies Sought,” Toledo Blade, August 24 2001.
- “Burned Remains Found in Ohio; Authorities Search for More Bodies,” Charleston Gazette, August 24 2001.
- “Suspect Boasts about Killings (Pt. 1),” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 25 2001.
- “Suspect Boasts about Killings (Pt. 2),” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 25 2001.
- “Steubenville Man Insists Claim of Killing 6 Is True; Jefferson County Jail Inmate Has Only Been Linked to One, No Other Remains Found in a Week’s Search,” Akron Beacon Journal, October 7 2001.
- “Prisoner Is Accused of Knifing,” Beaver County Times, March 14 2002.