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Ottawa County is a county located in the northwestern part of Ohio, and has a population of approximately 41,000. Prostitution activity has been well-documented within the county, and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies. Prostitution activity has 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. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. Some cases of local sex trafficking have also involved child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often referred to in state laws as “child pornography). For example, in July, 2021, an Ottawa County man was indicted on federal charges for allegedly attempting to traffic teens for prostitution, reported WOOD-TV 8. According to a federal indictment filed, the man faced four counts of attempted sex trafficking of a child and a count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child. The criminal complaint that explained specific details behind the charges remained sealed in federal court, but the indictment referenced four victims but did not include any of their names. They ranged in age from about 14 or 15 to 17. It alleges the man tried to traffic three of the teens for commercial sex in the summer of 2020. The trafficking charges linked to the fourth victim, who was also the victim in the exploitation charge, date back to as early as October 2019. In the exploitation charge, it was alleged that between October 2019 and February 2020, the man tried to get the fourth victim to produce “child pornography” (child sexual abuse materials, or CSAM).
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. There has been at least one reverse sting conducted within the county. In March 2013, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation, and the FBI’s Northwest Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force, conducted a reverse sting at a local hotel in Portage Township. The deputies — both men and women —posed undercover as prostituted persons, pimps, and sex buyers who responded to an online ad, and arranged to meet at the hotel in Portage Township. Five men were arrested and charged with solicitation after attempting to purchase sex from undercover officers. A sixth man was arrested and charged with attempted solicitation. All arrestees had their names publicized by the local media.
There has also been at least one instance of a sex buyer arrest not related to a sting operation. In September 2020, a Portage Township woman was charged with felony soliciting a child for prostitution, two counts of felony attempting to expose intimate parts to a child, and misdemeanor fourth degree sexual assault. According to the criminal complaint, a 17-year-old girl accused the defendant of inappropriate contact with her since September 2019. The child alleged that the woman offered to give her rides, money, or prescription medication in exchange for sexual acts, and also reported receiving inappropriate photos. A 14-year-old boy told the officer that the same woman had offered to perform a sexual act on him while giving him a ride.
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 8 Arrests”, Port Clinton News Herald, March 27 2013.
- “Undercover Agents Arrest 8 in Prostitution Sting”, WNWO/Northwest Ohio, March 27 2013.
- http://www.sanduskyregister.com/story/ (2013)
Sex Buyer Arrests:
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area: