45 Missing Children Rescued By US Marshals In Largest Anti-Human Trafficking Effort In State History
US marshals in Ohio rescued 45 missing children throughout an investigation known as Operation Autumn Hope in what has been described as the largest anti-human trafficking effort in state history.
The operation was coordinated through Attorney General Dave Yost’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission and involved more than 50 law enforcement agencies and non-government partners, who conducted simultaneous raids across the state.
Investigators focused on rescuing victims of human trafficking, recovering missing children, apprehending those looking to have sex with a minor and arresting ‘male johns seeking to buy sex’.
A total of 109 human trafficking victims were rescued and referred to social services as a result of the mission, including the physical recovery of 45 missing children.
More than 70 missing and exploited children cases were cleared in total, according to the attorney general’s office.
Among those missing was 15-year-old girl from Cleveland, whose recovery linked her and other possible victims to an individual in Columbus suspected of human trafficking.
Sgt. Dana Hess, director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, commented:
These vulnerable members of our population usually slip through the cracks. This operation highlighted the vast number of potential victims and allowed law enforcement the opportunity to make contact and link them to services.
The Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force and Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force successfully apprehended 22 individuals seeking to have sex with a minor, including a pastor, students, and a rehabilitation resident advisor.
Charges included felony counts of importuning, attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and possession of criminal tools, among others.
A further 157 men, including a firefighter, an attorney and a motivational speaker, were arrested on charges of soliciting and other crimes in Cuyahoga, Franklin and Lucas counties.
Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said that predators ‘shamelessly target the most innocent and defenseless members of our community’ and stressed that Operation Autumn Hope is ‘sending a loud and clear message: We are watching, we will catch you, and we will protect our children.’
Attorney General Yost said it was the largest anti-human trafficking effort in state history and celebrated the success of the operation in a press release.
The success of Operation Autumn Hope is measured not only in the number of arrests but in the lives that were rescued from this evil.
Every agency on this team looks for the day when no person is bought and sold in Ohio. Don’t buy sex in Ohio!
Peter C. Tobin, US Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, expressed his thanks to the authorities who took part in the operation and noted that ‘Operation Autumn Hope has made a difference in a lot of young lives’.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 between 12pm–2.30pm and 7pm– 9.30pm every day. Alternatively, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas.
Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on their website or on their free helpline 0808 800 5005, open 9am–5pm Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; 8am–8pm Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10am–2pm Saturdays.