Youngstown, OH

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

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.


Key Partners

  •  Youngstown Police Department
  • Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force


Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

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 73818
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