Jefferson County, OH

Tactics Used

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

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.”



Key Partners

  • Jefferson County Drug Task Force
  • Steubenville Police Department

Key Sources

Brothel Raids with John Arrests:

Street-Level 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 County
Population 66359
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