Portage County, Ohio has a population of about 160,000, and its county seat is the city of Ravenna. Kent is the largest city in Portage County, and 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 purposes 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 an 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. For example, in July, 2019, the Kent Police Department and the Streetsboro Police Department were two of the many law enforcement agencies working 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 having sex or sending sexually explicit photos during the online conversations. When a plan was made to meet at a vacant house, police apprehended the men.
- Ravenna Police Department
- Portage County Drug Task Force
- Kent Police Department
- Streetsboro Police Department
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Shaming:
- Record-Courier, September 16, 2006. 4 men arrested in prostitution sting: Ravenna resident complaints spurred operaiton by undercover agents.
- https://www.record-courier.com/news/20170706/portage-deputies-arrest-customer-prostitute (2017)
- http://www.medina-gazette.com/Cops-and-Courts/2019/07/12/3-county-men-arrested-in-child-sex-sting-during-All-Star-weekend.html (2019)
- https://www.cleveland19.com/2019/07/11/ohio-ranks-fourth-national-human-trafficking/ (2019)
- https://www.ohio.com/news/20190712/28-men-charged-with-seeking-sex-from-children-in-northeast-ohio-sting (2019)
- https://www.record-courier.com/news/20190711/kent-streetsboro-police-help-arrest-human-traffickers (2019)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: