Middleburg Heights, OH

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Middleburg Heights is a city of approximately 16,000 residents and is a suburb of Cleveland, located in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the city and county, including drugs linked to the local commercial sex market and child sex trafficking and online exploitation. For example, in 2021 the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor announced 31 arrests in a child pornography (i.e., child sexual abuse materials) sting. Suspects used social media to send inappropriate photos to who they believed were minor children and then made arrangements to meet the children in person for sex. Charges against the suspects included compelling prostitution and attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, and a Middleburg Heights resident was among the defendants.

In September 2020, city officials considered an ordinance introduced at a city council meeting in September that would require specific safety measures and restrictions for Middleburg Heights hotels and motels. The legislation would create a new chapter in the city’s codified ordinances “to mandate hotels and motels implement security measures for the safety of their clientele and for the health, safety and welfare of all residents and businesses … and to prevent criminal conduct and nuisances.” The location would be considered a nuisance if it failed to comply with federal, state, or city codes; had numerous drug- or alcohol-related arrests; had incidents of prostitution or sex trafficking arrests; or had “excessive” calls for service, defined as Middleburg Heights police officers being directed or dispatched to the hotel for five or more drug, alcohol, prostitution, or sex trafficking incidents within a 30-day period. After the fifth call for service, the establishment would be required to have at least one armed, off-duty Middleburg Heights law enforcement officer on site between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for 90 days. The ordinance would require hotel/motel management to report incidents involving theft, prostitution, illegal drug use, or other violations of law to the Middleburg Heights Police Department.

To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream driving all commercial sex and trafficking. In October 2020, the Ohio Attorney General announced the results of  “Operation Autumn Hope,” which was coordinated through the Ohio Attorney General’s Organized Crime Investigations Commission and encompassed more than 50 law enforcement agencies, including the Middleburg Police Department. The operation resulted in the arrest of 179 sex buyers, including 22 who were seeking to sexually abuse minors, and the recovery of 109 human trafficking victims, 45 of whom were children. The identities and photos of arrested offenders were released to local media outlets.

In February 2022, Ohio Attorney General Yost announced that eight sex buyers had been arrested in Middleburg Heights during a web-based trafficking sting called “Operation Fouled Out,” which coincided with the National Basketball Association’s All-Star Game in Cleveland. The sting was coordinated through the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission and led by the Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, and involved several law enforcement agencies and social services organizations, including the Middleburg Heights Police Department. Attorney General Yost said of the operation:

“This operation’s mission was two-fold: to arrest johns soliciting sex and to proactively encounter potential victims. Our task reinforced both the consequences for buying sex and the pathways available for victims to find a way out.”

The names ages, and hometowns of the arrested sex buyers were released to the public, and their mugshots were posted on the attorney general’s Twitter page. In addition to arresting sex buyers, law enforcement also identified and interviewed 15 prostituted individuals, and potential victims of sex trafficking were provided assistance and health care by organizations including the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and Canopy Child Advocacy Center.

Key Partners

  • Middleburg Heights Police Department
  • Cuyahoga Regional Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission
  • Ohio Attorney General’s Office
  • Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department
  • Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force
  • Bureau of Criminal Investigation
  • Ohio Investigative Unit (component of Ohio State Highway Patrol)
  • Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
  • Cleveland Division of Police
  • Warrensville Heights Police Department
  • MetroHealth Police Department
  • Chagrin Valley Dispatch
  • Cleveland Rape Crisis Center
  • Canopy Child Advocacy Center

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Proposed Ordinance to Decrease Sexual Exploitation:

State Ohio
Type City
Population 15514
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