Pickaway County, 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

Pickaway County, Ohio has a population of approximately 59,000 residents, and is a part of the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area. Its county seat is Circleville. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the county and surrounding areas. Among the more serious issues associated with the county’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. Instances of adult and minor sex trafficking have been frequent enough that the county created its own human trafficking coalition, Pickaway County Human Trafficking Coalition, to address these issues. In addition, there have been numerous instances in which individuals associated with religious organizations have been apprehended for prostitution-related offenses. For example, in 2020, the former operator of New Hope Christian Outreach Charities was arrested after police said they received information concerning multiple sexual assaults of minors. The 56-year-old Circleville resident was accused of using a Christian outreach ministry for the homeless to locate and sexually abuse victims. In 2021, the offender pleaded no contest to two charges of rape, kidnapping, attempted rape, and compelling prostitution, and was sentenced to 25-to-30 years in prison as well as being classified as a Tier III sex offender and being required to have a lifetime registration after parole.

Among the efforts to address such problems have been both street-level and web-based reverse stings, focused on apprehending sex buyers in the area. For example, in 2021, a central Ohio sex trafficking and prostitution operation took place from April 14-15 in partnership with federal, state, and local law enforcement. Operation 614 was coordinated through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office – Organized Crime Investigations Commission, and encompassed more than 20 law enforcement agencies and nongovernmental partners, including the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, to address issues that fuel sex trafficking and prostitution in central Ohio. During this operation, rooms were equipped with cameras and microphones to record interactions between undercover officers and suspected sex buyers. According to AG David Yost:

“Operation 614 is the latest in a long series of efforts to push back against human trafficking in Ohio. I am so proud of our law enforcement partners, who with their boots on the ground, made this operation a success. We all look forward to that day when no person is bought or sold for sex in Ohio.”

The operation, conducted in Columbus and surrounding suburbs included the following:

  • Identifying victims of human trafficking and referring them to social services
  • Apprehending those seeking to have sex with a minor
  • Arresting male sex buyers seeking to purchase commercial sex

As a result of the two-day operation 93 male sex buyers were arrested and 53 victims were identified and linked with advocates and social services provided by the Salvation Army. This operation was conducted in response to the creation of a new charge, engaging in prostitution, a misdemeanor of the first degree, which became effective on April 12th, 2021, under House Bill 431. During this operation, under the new law, for the first time in Ohio individuals arrested for sex buying were required to attend an education or treatment program aimed at preventing a person from inducing, enticing, or procuring another to engage in sexual activity for hire.

In 2021, the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office participated in the largest sex trafficking investigation in the state of Ohio’s history. As a result of the statewide investigation, over 161 arrests were made, and officials also located several missing children. “Operation Ohio Knows,” coordinated through AG Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC), was a collaborative effort that took place from September 24, 2021 to October 1, 2021 to address issues that fuel sex trafficking in Ohio. According to Attorney General David Yost, sex trafficking and prostitution are serious and widespread issues within the state of Ohio:

“People who traffic other humans are doing it for a really simple reason — money. And if there’s no demand then there will be no market. Reducing the demand means we reduce the number of people who are victimized by human trafficking. We will not rest until no one in Ohio buys or sells human beings.”

The operation included the arrest of 161 sex buyers – three of whom sought to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. During the course of the operation, law enforcement officers also arrested individuals who possessed drugs and/or firearms. Most were charged with engaging in prostitution, a first-degree misdemeanor. A change in state law passed in the spring required those convicted to undergo human trafficking education, a provision promoted by Attorney General Yost to decrease the demand for prostitution. Among those arrested were a teacher, a professor, a firefighter, a pilot, municipal employees, and a city councilman. Additionally, fifty individuals offering to sell sex – men and women – were arrested. Law enforcement officers interviewed 51 potential human trafficking victims, who were provided services from health care and social services organizations. A simultaneous operation carried out by the U.S. Marshals Service recovered 10 missing children. The Attorney General’s Office also hosts an annual human trafficking summit and provides coordination, education, and outreach on the subject.

Law enforcement has also apprehended sex buyers through alternative investigations. For example, in 2017, the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office participated in an investigation led by the Circleville Police Department focused on reducing crime in the city. Officials conducted the investigation in response to numerous complaints regarding the increase in drug and prostitution offenses occurring in the city. Among those arrested were three male sex buyers on the charges of soliciting prostitution and loitering to engage in solicitation of prostitution. The offenders’ identities were included in reports by local news sources. In addition, one of the arrested sex buyers was the lead elder for New Life Church. Church leaders said the facts in the case were still being put together so it was up in the air how they would deal with the sex buyer’s unpaid position at the church. In April of 2018, the sex buyer was sentenced to 12-month probation, 40 hours of community service, and monetary fines. The sex buyer was no longer employed or affiliated with the church, according to their website.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, John School, Cameras, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Community Service:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

State Ohio
Type County
Population 59333
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