Youngstown is a city of approximately 66,000 residents, located southeast of Cleveland in Mahoning County, Ohio. Prostitution and child sex trafficking are well-documented problems in the city; several prostituted women have also been murdered in the community and surrounding areas.
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 now routinely conduct such operations, using one or more undercover female officers as decoys. As a warning to other sex buyers, the YPD may release arrested johns’ 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 johns as well as prostituted women. 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 prostitutes’ services, and thereby “drive them out of [the] community.” Police responded that reverse sting operations, while successful, are often “very labor-intensive” and require extensive surveillance and backup in the form of an 8-10 member support team to ensure the safety of undercover female officers.
In May, 2019 a web-based reverse sting was conducted that focused on people seeking to sexually exploit children. Sixteen men were arrested in the Youngstown area. The operation was conducted by the Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force led to the arrests.
- Youngstown Police Department
- Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force
- “5 Men Arrested by Police Decoy”, Youngstown Vindicator, April 7 1982.
- “Police Units Hit 4 Areas of City”, Youngstown Vindicator, April 10 1982.
- “Eleven Men Charged in Prostitution Sting”, Youngstown Vindicator, August 9 1995.
- “Cops Arrest 4 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Youngstown Vindicator, July 12 1997.
- “City of Youngstown Police Department’s Weed and Seed Strategy Year Four Evaluation Report”, Heidi B. Hallas for Youngstown State University’s Center for Human Services Development, April 2004.
- “Boy, 14, Caught in Prostitution Sting”, Youngstown Vindicator, September 25 2006.
- “Sting Nets Four Arrests”, Youngstown Vindicator, November 3 2007.
- “Prostitution Sting Rounds Up Five Local Men”, CBS/WKBN-TV 27, December 28 2008.
- https://www.wpxi.com/3-men-from-w-pa-among-16-arrested-in-child-sex-trafficking-sting (2019)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Prostitution Ring Alleged; Grand Jury Indicts 10 at Cleveland”, Toledo Blade, April 11 1972.
- https://www.wkbn.com/news/why-human-trafficking-court-is-necessary-in-youngstown/ (2019)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Officer Wants to Loosen Prostitution-Arrest Law”, Youngstown Vindicator, October 31 2001.
- “Prostitution Persists in Youngstown”, CBS/WKBN-TV 27, April 17 2014.
- https://www.bryantimes.com/news/14-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2020)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “I-71 Death Tied to Serial Killer”, Pittsburgh Press, March 30 1987.
- “McKeesport Man to Face Trial in Banyot’s Killing”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 7 1987.
- “Man Held in Multiple Slayings Suspected in Area Prostitute’s Death”, Pittsburgh Press, January 13 1990.
- “After More than 20 Years as ‘Jane Doe,’ Ohio Homicide Victim ID’d as Former Pines Woman”, South Florida Sun Sentinel, February 5 2013.