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Reynoldsburg is a city in central Ohio of approximately 38,000 residents located within Fairfield County, Franklin County, and Licking County. It is a suburban community in the Columbus metropolitan area. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the city and surrounding areas. This activity and its ancillary crimes have generated residential reports to police. Among the more serious crimes associated with the city’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in May 2017, a 26-year-old Reynoldsburg man was indicted on charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, trafficking in persons, compelling prostitution, promoting prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation of a minor, and pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor. According to the Franklin County Prosecutor, Ron O’Brien, the offender had allegedly posted advertisements of two teenage girls on Backpage.com, a website known for prostitution and sex trafficking activity, and then sex trafficked the girls at a number of central Ohio hotels between October 22, 2016 and December 6, 2016. At the time of reports, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office was not sure whether the sex trafficker was still in central Ohio or if he had fled to another part of the state or country:
“We believe that this defendant is purposely dodging authorities in order to evade arrest and avoid facing these very serious charges. Our main concern is that other children could be victimized by this suspected human trafficker until he is in custody. We urge anyone with information on Micaiah Price’s whereabouts to immediately contact law enforcement.”
According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, a 19-year-old female co-defendant from Columbus, was arrested in May of 2017 on similar charges. She was detained in the Franklin County Jail without bond. The whereabouts of the male offender remained unknown.
Efforts to reduce commercial sex activity in the city, have included those focusing on demand-reduction, targeting individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex. For example, in 2021, the Reynoldsburg Division of Police along with more than 20 Central Ohio law enforcement agencies took part in a web-based investigation led by the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, targeting sex buyers and sex traffickers. “Operation 614“, resulted in the arrest of 93 male sex buyers and over 50 victims of sex trafficking within central Ohio. According to reports, local law enforcement posted decoy advertisements on websites known for commercial sex, communicated with potential sex buyers, arranging a date, location, and price; upon the sex buyer’s arrival to the predetermined location they were arrested by undercover officers. Officials from the Reynoldsburg Division of Police used cameras to monitor interactions between undercover officers and sex buyers. Detectives from the Reynoldsburg Division of Police were reportedly contacted by 225 potential sex buyers responding to online ads and 15 male sex buyers responded in person and were arrested by undercover officers for allegedly soliciting prostitution. In addition to arrest, sex buyers were mandated to participate in a “john school” program as a part of their sentencing requirements. This operation was conducted in response to the creation of a new charge, engaging in prostitution, which became effective on April 12th, 2021, under House Bill 431. During this operation, for the first time in Ohio, those seeking to purchase sex were charged with “engaging in prostitution”, a misdemeanor of the first degree. Under the new law, an offender would be 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 April 2021, a new state law took effect that established the crime of “engaging in prostitution.” Previously, the Ohio had a single statute addressing prostitution, one that focused on penalizing prostituted persons rather than sex buyers. Under the new statute (Ohio Revised Code Section 2907.231), sex buyers are required to attend an education or treatment program, “aimed at preventing (them) from inducing, enticing, or procuring another to engage in sexual activity for hire in exchange for the person giving anything of value to the other person.” The passage of this new law required the state to create a set of standards for Sex Buyer Education (SBE) programs. In 2022, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office created a guide for cities and counties to create Sex Buyer Education programs in accordance with statewide regulations. Two types of programs are outline in the report; single day programs and lengthier, therapy-based programs. Cities/counties interested in implementing a program, could apply for funding from the AGO, by filling out this application: John School Funding Application For further information, click here: John Schools: Guidelines for Sex Buyer Education Programs and An Overview of John Schools in Ohio.
In October 2021, the Reynoldsburg Division of Police participated in the largest sex trafficking operation in the state of Ohio to date. “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 of commercial sex and sex trafficking in Ohio. As a result of the operation, 161 individuals sex buyers were arrested, three of whom attempted 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. A statement from the Reynoldsburg Chief of Police declared that the division is an active member of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force:
“The Reynoldsburg Division of Police is proud to be a partner agency with the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force for Operation Ohio Knows here in our jurisdiction. We recognize the toll these types of crimes take on our community and are fully supportive of investigating and prosecuting suspects, while at the same time assisting in seeking recovery resources and support for victims. We look forward to our continued partnership toward ending crimes related to human trafficking and prostitution.”
Sex buyers arrested in Reynoldsville are sentenced to complete the john school program, Columbus John Education Program, operated by the Columbus City Attorney’s Office and the Franklin County Municipal Court. Approximately 150 to 200 sex buyers participated in this program annually. Since its inception in 2005 until 2018, the program had only had 12 repeat offenders on record (Recidivism rate of <1%). The curriculum aims to educate offenders about the negative impacts of prostitution and deter them from committing similar crimes again. Between 2007 and 2012, more than 150 men (mostly first-time offenders with no record of violence) completed the city’s john school program. At the end of 2012, Assistant City Attorney Michael C. Allbritain reported that the program conducted three or four john school sessions per year, depending upon the flow of men provided by police operations. The program functioned as both a diversion and a sentencing option. Some men were sent to the school as part of a plea agreement arranged by their attorneys, and others were ordered to attend as a condition of their probation. The program is at no cost to participating sex buyers and functions as a single day course that runs for an average of six to right hours. Speakers have typically included police officers, women formerly involved in prostitution and former victims of sex trafficking, Columbus Public Health officials, and community activists. The john school focuses on the following topics:
- Health education
- Negative community impact
- Legal consequences of solicitation
- Human trafficking and sex trafficking/pimping
- Sexual addictions
The program excludes men with a prior violent offense, sex offense, or domestic violence offense and perpetrators who were attempting to “purchase sex from a minor” or have such offenses on record. When asked about the program, Allbritain said:
“This program is useful and runs at little to no cost. If we did not have this program, the john would most likely pay a small fine and then get his case expunged. The point of this program is to educate them and let them know that this is not a victimless crime…For me a successful person that’s been through the program is someone that does not do this activity ever again. I’d like to think that they left the program with their whole mentality changed and they’re not going to be a part of the problem anymore, they’re going to be a part of the solution.”
In 2016, a john school program was launched by the non-profit organization called She Has a Name called, Reduce Demand, serving individuals in central Ohio. From 2016 to 2019, over 200 men had completed the John School program in Columbus/Franklin County. More recently, classes have been large and have included men arrested in other communities in the Franklin County area; for example, in July of 2021, a john school class had 58 male sex buyers in attendance. It was unclear from reports whether or not this course was a separate course from the original 2005 program.
For more information about the Reduce Demand & Columbus John Education Program, click here: Franklin County, OH and Columbus, OH.
In addition to web-based reverse stings, additional demand-reduction tactics have been deployed in the city. For example, on December 6, 2021, the City of Reynoldsburg hosted a conference called Human Sex Trafficking for Law Enforcement where a Street Cop Instructor spoke about the differences and similarities between sex trafficking and prostitution, identify the characteristics of trafficking victims, the vulnerabilities that lead to their victimization, and locations in which commercial sex occurs (e.g., online, brothels, streets, etc.).
- Reynoldsburg Police Department
- Franklin County Sheriff’s Office
- Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office
- Ohio Attorney General’s Office
- Franklin County Municipal Court
- Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office
- Licking County Sheriff’s Office
- Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission
- She Has a Name
- Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force
Web-Based Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://qfm96.com/news/061160-human-trafficking-sting-rescues-victims-nets-arrests (2021)
- https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Media/News-Releases/April-2021/AG-Dave-Yost-Announces-Success-of-Central-Ohio-Hum (2021)
- https://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Media/News-Releases/October-2021/Attorney-General-Dave-Yost-Announces-Success-of-St (2021)
- https://www.wkyc.com/article/news/local/ohio/human-trafficking-operation-ohio-task-force-attorney-general-dave-yost (2021)
- https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/10/05/ohio-sex-trafficking-sting-nets-161-arrests-elyria-councilman (2021)
- https://www.whio.com/news/local/93-arrests-made-human-trafficking-bust-near-columbus (2021)
- “City Hopes ‘John School’ Will Curb Prostitution”, Columbus Dispatch, June 11 2007.
- “School Aims to Teach Men Perils of Picking Up Prostitutes”, Norwalk Hour, June 11 2007.
- “Johns Go to John School”, NBC/WCMH TV 4, September 3 2008.
- “Ohio Court Aims to Rehabilitate Prostitutes”, WHTC 1450 Radio, November 9 2010.
- “Men Buying Sex Attend John School”, Examiner, June 20 2011.
- “‘John School’ Lesson: Prostitution Has Victims”, Columbus Dispatch, December 17 2012.
- https://humantrafficking.ohio.gov/links/John-Schools-Report.pdf (2015)
- “Ohio State Football; Adolphus Washington Pleads Guilty to Solicitation,” Columbus Dispatch, January 20 2016.
- “Solicitation Charge Dropped against Ohio State Football Player Adolphus Washington,” Columbus Dispatch, February 22 2016.
- http://radio.wosu.org/post/faced-sex-trafficking-surge-city-wonders-if-john-school-can-reduce-demand (2018)
- https://www.dispatch.com/officer-retires-as-part-of-guilty-plea-in-solicitation-case (2018)
- https://shehasaname.org/demand-reduction (2019)
- https://qfm96.com/news/061160-human-trafficking-sting-rescues-victims-nets-arrests/ (2021)
- https://www.10tv.com/columbus-police-cracking-down-on-human-trafficking-pushing-for-stronger-penalties-on-solicitation (2021)
- https://ohionewstime.com/columbus-police-crack-down-on-human-trafficking-promote-stronger-penalties-for-solicitation (2021)
- https://www.nbc4i.com/news/local-news/columbus/columbus-to-vote-on-harsher-penalties-for-sex-trafficking-customers (2021)
- Ohio Revised Code Section 2907.231 (2021)
- John Schools: Guidelines for Sex Buyer Education Programs (2022)
- John School Funding Application (2022)
- https://abc6onyourside.com/news/local/operation-614-reynoldsburg-police-targeting-johns-4-16-2021 (2021)
- https://abc6onyourside.com/news/local/operation-614-human-trafficking-sting-ohio-4-16-21 (2021)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- Prostitution Plea-Man says he’s guilty in abuse of 13-year-old girl (2006)
- Man gets 14 years in prostitution ring case (2006)
- https://www.dispatch.com/story/news/local/reynoldsburg/2015/04/21/reynoldsburg-teens-arrested-in-prostitution (2015)
- https://www.nbc4i.com/news/reynoldsburg-man-accused-of-luring-teens-into-human-trafficking-and-prostitution (2017)
- https://www.whio.com/news/local/you-know-him-central-ohio-human-trafficking-task-force-asks (2017)
- https://abc6onyourside.com/news/local/law-enforcement-to-share-results-of-large-columbus-based-human-trafficking-sting (2019)
- Reynoldsburg looks to shut down hotel plagued by crime (2021)
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