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Portsmouth is a city of approximately 18,000 residents situated along the northern banks of the Ohio River in Scioto County, about 30 miles northwest of Ashland, Kentucky. Commercial sex, including the sex trafficking of minors, has been reported in the community for several decades. Portsmouth has also documented at least one case of prostitution-related homicide; in August 2014, the body of a teenage girl was pulled from the Ohio River in Portsmouth. In the weeks that followed, a 46-year-old man from Racine, Ohio, was arrested and charged with murdering the teen after the two allegedly “met over the internet, where she had placed an ad on Craigslist.com.” The man was charged with murder, felony tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse, and two counts of compelling prostitution.
In an effort to reduce commercial sex, trafficking, and related problems in the area, the Portsmouth Police Department has conducted reverse stings since at least 2008, if not earlier. Operations have been typically conducted at street level, with one or more female undercover officers posing as decoys. Law enforcement has continued to target prostituted women and girls for arrest, and often run sex buyer stings in parallel with stings targeting prostituted women. Once arrested, individuals charged with prostitution-related offenses have had their names released to the public.
- Portsmouth Police Department
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Arrests,” Portsmouth Daily Times, May 5 2008.
- “Police Report Successful Sting Operation, Mayor Praises Officers, Courts for Response to Prostitution Problem,” Portsmouth Daily Times, June 11 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 13,” Portsmouth Daily Times, July 30 2011.
- “13 Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” Portsmouth Daily Times, July 22 2013.
- “PPD Chief Mulls Prostitution Sting Methods,” Portsmouth Daily Times, July 28 2013.
- https://www.wowktv.com/news/ohio/attorney-suspended-after-hes-charged-with-human-trafficking (2021)
- https://www.wnewsj.com/portsmouth-attorney-suspended-after-hes-charged-with-human-trafficking (2021)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Ex-School Chief Admits Creating Boy Prostitutes,” Columbus Dispatch, November 26 1987.
- “Portsmouth,” Columbus Dispatch, December 18 1987.
- “3 Men Sentenced in Sex Case,” Columbus Dispatch, January 23 1988.
- “Man Gets 4 1/2 Years in Prostitution Case,” Columbus Dispatch, February 4 1988.
- “Sex Suspect Pleads Guilty to Drug Counts,” Columbus Dispatch, March 16 1988.
- “Men, Boys, Sex, Poverty: How It Happened,” Columbus Dispatch, March 27 1988.
- “Mystery Surrounds Rural Sex Sales,” Columbus Dispatch, March 28 1988.
- “Ohio County Sex Ring Puzzles Residents,” Akron Beacon Journal, March 28 1988.
- https://www.cincinnati.com/news/sex-trafficking-trapped-and-trafficked-portsmouth-ohio (2019)
- https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/portsmouth-sex-trafficking-michael-mearan-arrest (2020)
- https://local12.com/news/local/man-charged-with-operating-15-year-long-sex-trafficking-ring-michael-mearan (2020)
- https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/top-stories/nine-arrested-charged-federally-in-connection-to-human-trafficking-operation (2020)
- https://www.sciotocountydailynews.com/is-prostitution-really-a-victimless-crime-a-closer-look (2021)
- https://local12.com/news/nation-world/ohio-attorney-charged-with-running-15-year-long-sex-trafficking-ring-found-dead-michael-mearan-prostitution-slavery-trade-human-trafficking-sex-crimes-portsmouth-cincinnati-ohio (2021)
- https://apnews.com/article/ohio-portsmouth-prostitution-human-trafficking (2021)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Weekend Sting Leads to More Arrests, Three Women Face Solicitation Charges, Are Released from Jail,” Portsmouth Daily Times, May 6 2008.
- “Prostitute Arrested after Soliciting Officer,” Portsmouth Daily Times, May 29 2008.
- “Woman Charged with Solicitation,” Portsmouth Daily Times, February 21 2009.
- “Prostitution Target Nets 7 Arrests,” Portsmouth Daily Times, July 10 2009.
- “8 Women Face Solicitation Charges,” Portsmouth Daily Times, January 26 2013.
- “Woman Arrested for Solicitation,” Portsmouth Daily Times, March 26 2013.
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “UPDATE: Ohio Man Arraigned in Murder of Cross Lanes Teen,” NBC/WSAZ-TV 3, September 29 2014.
- “Trial of Man Charged in Slaying of Cross Lanes Teen Moved to Feb.,” Charleston Gazette, January 7 2015.
- “Trial of Man Charged in Slaying of Cross Lanes Teen Moved to April,” Charleston Gazette, February 19 2015.
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