Lucas County, OH

Tactics Used

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

Lucas County is located in Ohio and bordered on the east by Lake Erie, and on the southeast by the Maumee River. Its population is about 430,000, and its county seat is Toledo (a city of approximately 300,000 residents. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been identified by law enforcement as substantial problems in the county, and residents have complained to police about prostitution in certain communities. Among the crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is the homicide of prostituted persons, and others associated with this activity.  For example, a man was found guilty of killing one prostituted woman and raping another in 2000.  A serial killer admitted in 2006 to killing five prostituted women and around the city, and police connected him with at least to other similar murders.  HIV positive prostituted persons are known to have continued to sell sex in Toledo after their diagnosis, and prostituted local women have been kidnapped (and jumped out of moving vehicles to escape) and assaulted.

The Lucas County Sheriff’s Office has also conducted demand reduction operations in the Toledo and Springfield Township areas.  For example, in January, 2020 the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office says 14 people were arrested on drug and prostitution charges in a human trafficking operation in Springfield Township.  The Lucas County Sheriff’s Office says it worked with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force on the operation at a hotel in Springfield Township. Those arrested were charged with a variety of offenses, including soliciting and drug-related charges.

The Toledo Police Department was among the first in the country to implement the use of street-level reverse stings in 1975; operations are still routinely conducted, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. As men attempt to solicit sex from the women, they are apprehended by police.  Once arrested, buyes may have their vehicles seized and impounded, as per a city ordinance established in 1991. As a warning to other would-be sex buyers, the TPD may also release arrestees’ names and other identifying information to the local media.

John School:

Local sex trafficking cases also helped spur the creation of a “john school” program in 2010. Led by the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, the Prostitution Offender Program of Lucas County is a diversion program limited to johns without prior prostitution-related offenses. In exchange for completing the daylong course, which includes presentations from local law enforcement, public health officials and former prostituted women, first-time offenders may have their cases “sealed.” The program began in 2013, and as of 2018, the john school is still operating and is named “First Offender Prostitution Program – Lucas County.” The fee paid by arrested sex buyers is $300, and the program incurs no cost to taxpayers. Participants must attend a one-time class and remain free from reoffending for one year in order to receive lesser penalty. Men who attend are taught the following:

• Health risks associated with prostitution
• Connection between commercial sex and human trafficking
• Legal consequences
• Encouraged to explore the psycho-social reasons they paid for sex

Key Partners

  • Lucas County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition
  • Second Chance
  • Toledo Police Department
  • FBI Child Exploitation Task Force

Key Sources

State Ohio
Type County
Population 430887
Location
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