Newburgh Heights is a village in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and has a population of about 2,000. Prostitution activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in May 2013, the residents of Newburgh Heights voted to approve an increase in property taxes to provide additional police staffing, including full-time officers and equipment. One of the explicit goals of the initiative was to establish aggressive anti drug and prostitution activity on a proactive basis. The unofficial results indicated Issue 4 passed handily with 61% voting for the levy. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, an undercover internet-based sting targeting men seeking sex with children in Newburgh Heights was conducted between May 29 and June 1, 2018, resulting in the arrest of twenty-two men. The Newburgh Heights Police Department collaborated with the Ohio ICAC beginning in Fall 2017 to set up a sting house as part of the operation. Suspects corresponded with undercover officers pretending to be minors aged 12 to 15 on various apps and social media sites. The offenders traveled to the undercover address under the belief they would be having sex with a minor. The operation took eight to 10 months of planning and four days of undercover execution. Officials said some of the offenders sent photos of their genitals, while others offered money, drugs or alcohol in exchange for sex. During the four-day operation, authorities arrested offenders at a rate of one per every hour and 45 minutes. Two offenders arrived within 10 minutes of each other. All 22 offenders were indicted on sex offense charges ranging from attempted unlawful sexual contact with a minor to attempted rape. Three of those arrested were already registered sex offenders. A full list of the arrested offenders was released by law enforcement officials. Officials from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC), Homeland Security and Newburgh Heights police announced the indictments in a news conference in June, 2018.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office has collaborated with local law enforcement agencies within the county, including the Newburgh Heights Police Department, on other operations as well. 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.
- Newburgh Heights Police Department
- Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force
- Department of Homeland Security
- 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)
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Shaming:
- https://www.wkyc.com/article/22-arrested-attempted-sex-with-minors-internet-sting-newburgh-heights (2018)
- https://www.clevescene.com/cuyahoga-county-undercover-sting-operation-arrests-22-men-attempting-to-have-sex-with-children (2018)
- https://fox8.com/2019/07/11/i-team-exposes-suspected-predators-arrested-in-local-sex-sting/ (2019)
- 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)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- http://newburghheightsohio.weebly.com/police-bulletin-page.html (2013)
- 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)