Youngstown, 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

Youngstown is a city of approximately 60,000 residents, located southeast of Cleveland in Mahoning County, Ohio. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems in the city; several prostituted women have also been murdered in the community and in surrounding areas. Among the more serious issues associated with the commercial sex market in the city is child sex trafficking. For example, in 2020 the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force arrested 14 men in an operation targeting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. “Operation Autumn Hope,” which was coordinated through the Ohio Attorney General’s Organized Crime Investigations Commission, encompassed more than 50 law enforcement agencies, including the Youngstown Police Department. The operation resulted in the arrest of 177 individuals and the recovery of 109 human trafficking victims, 45 of the victims being children. The identities and photos of arrested offenders were released to local media outlets.

To address local problems with sex trafficking and citizens’ complaints of a rise in prostitution activity in the area, the Youngstown Police Department began conducting street-level reverse stings in the early 1980s. Police have routinely conducted such operations, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. As a warning to other sex buyers, the YPD has released arrested sex buyers’ names and other identifying information to the local media.

As in many cities struggling with a substantial prostitution problem, Youngstown residents have collaborated with local law enforcement (by reporting suspicious activity and attending neighborhood meetings) and encouraged officers to target sex buyers as well as prostituted women. For example, in a 2001 city council meeting, one resident asked whether more emphasis could be placed on arresting sex buyers in order to reduce the demand for commercial sex, and thereby “drive them out of [the] community.” Police responded that reverse sting operations, while successful, were often “very labor-intensive” and required extensive surveillance and backup in the form of an 8-10 member support team to ensure the safety of undercover female officers.

Loss of employment is also a consequence of sex buying that has occurred in the city. For example, in 2021 a former Youngstown-area physician pleaded guilty to seven counts of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of child exploitation. As a result of his conviction, he was sentenced 22 years of imprisonment, lifetime supervised release, a $50,000 fine, and a special assessment of $40,800. According to court records, in June 2019, the offender “used the online application Snapchat to entice, recruit and patronize six minor female victims, all between the ages of 12 and 15, to engage in sexual conduct with him by providing them with money, alcohol, new clothes and other items of value. He specifically budgeted $2,000 per month to be spent on obtaining young girls for sexual exploitation.” As a result of his arrest and conviction, the offender was removed from scheduling at the hospital he was being contracted to work at in addition to having his medical license indefinitely suspended in December 2019 by the Ohio State Medical Board.

Not all arrests of sex buyers are the result of proactive police decoy operations, but are instead the product of investigations targeting specific allegations of actual commercial sex and trafficking crimes and individual offenders. For example, in January 2022, a man was sentenced to nine months in prison after he pleaded guilty to six counts of promoting prostitution. He had been indicted on those charges, as well as two counts of procuring and one count of compelling prostitution, in July 2020. The man had hired six women for sex on separate occasions beginning in January 2018 and he compelled one of those women to prostitute herself. Police reported the man had also solicited another person to patronize prostituted women on two occasions. Not much information was released about his arrest, but it was the result of an investigation carried out by the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force.

Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Ohio
Type City
Population 60270
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