Portage County, OH
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Portage County, Ohio has a population of about 162,000, and its county seat is the city of Ravenna. Kent is the largest city in Portage County, which is located along the Cuyahoga River in the northeastern part of the state. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented throughout the county and in the region. For example, in December 2017, a man who drove a woman to Shalersville for the purpose of prostitution pleaded guilty to a felony charge in Portage County Common Pleas Court. He allegedly drove a woman to an address in Shalersville so she could have sex with a customer for $80, using a cellphone to arrange the deal. Instead, both were arrested by a sheriff’s deputy with the Portage County Sheriff’s Office. Between 2017 and 2019, state and federal agencies assisted local law enforcement in investigations in numerous cities and counties in northeast Ohio for alleged commercial sex crimes. The raids were part of a collaborative investigation between the Ohio Investigative Unit, the U.S. Secret Service, and local law enforcement agencies. The investigation started in 2017 when agents were tipped off about possible illegal activity. Search warrants were executed in Kent, as well as in Avon, Broadview Heights, Brunswick, Cleveland, Columbia Station, Copley, Lorain, Mansfield, North Royalton, Perkins Township, Strongsville, and Wooster. In some communities, search warrants were executed at multiple locations.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. Reverse stings have been conducted in the county for many years. For example, in 2006, the Ravenna Police Department and the Portage County Drug Task Force responded to community complaints about prostitution by conducting a reverse sting that resulted in the arrest of four sex buyers. The names, ages, and street addresses of the arrestees were released to the media. In July 2019, the Kent Police Department and the Streetsboro Police Department were two of the many law enforcement agencies that worked to arrest a total of 49 people suspected of engaging in human trafficking during the Cleveland All-Star baseball game weekend. The four-day undercover operation, led by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, was intended to identify and arrest individuals interested in engaging in sexual activity with persons they believed to be minor children. The men — as young as 20 and as old as 67 — each engaged in sexually explicit online conversations with undercover task force officers posing as children. Contact was made through popular social media sites and the defendants expressed an interest sexually abusing or sending sexually explicit photos during the online conversations. When a plan was made to meet at a vacant house, police apprehended the men.
In 2021, Portage County 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.
- Ravenna Police Department
- Portage County Drug Task Force
- Kent Police Department
- Streetsboro Police Department
- Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- 4 men arrested in prostitution sting: Ravenna resident complaints spurred operaiton by undercover agents (2006)
- https://www.record-courier.com/news/portage-deputies-arrest-customer-prostitute (2017)
- http://www.medina-gazette.com/Cops-and-Courts/3-county-men-arrested-in-child-sex-sting-during-All-Star-weekend (2019)
- https://www.cleveland19.com/ohio-ranks-fourth-national-human-trafficking (2019)
- https://www.ohio.com/news/28-men-charged-with-seeking-sex-from-children-in-northeast-ohio-sting (2019)
- https://www.record-courier.com/news/kent-streetsboro-police-help-arrest-human-traffickers (2019)
- https://www.cleveland19.com/over-160-caught-ohios-largest-human-trafficking-sting-including-arrests-portage-summit-counties (2021)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- https://www.beaconjournal.com/story/news/two-people-charged-in-portage (2013)
- https://www.wkyc.com/article/news/local/stark-county/fbi-police-2-massage-parlors-searched-for-prostitution (2014)
- https://www.record-courier.com/news/prostitution-bust-nets-guilty-pleas (2017)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
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