A statewide operation in Ohio resulted in the rescue of 109 human trafficking victims and the arrests of more than 157 male suspects, said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
The sting, dubbed Operation Autumn Hope, involved dozens of law enforcement agencies focused on finding missing children, rescuing human trafficking victims, and arresting suspects, Yost said in a statement Monday.
“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,” Yost said. “Every agency on this team looks for the day when no person is bought and sold in Ohio. Don’t buy sex in Ohio!”
The more than 100 human trafficking victims who were rescued were referred to state social services. In the southern part of Ohio, 76 missing and exploited children cases were completed, including 45 by the U.S. Marshals Service.
“My thanks to all personnel who have stepped up for this operation,” stated Peter C. Tobin, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio. “These are the same personnel who hunt down violent fugitives every day. I’m incredibly proud of them and pleased that they were able to apply those same skills to finding missing children. I know Operation Autumn Hope has made a difference in a lot of young lives.”
A 15-year-old girl from Cleveland who was rescued was also linked to other possible victims. They were linked to a suspect in Columbus who is believed to be involved in human trafficking, said the U.S. Marshals.
They also found “a 15-year-old male with two warrants who is a suspect in multiple shootings and a homicide … and a 14-year-old girl who was reported missing by the Lancaster Police Department who was recovered in Columbus within six hours of being reported missing,” according to Yost’s office.
Earlier this month, Donald Washington, the head of the U.S. Marshals Service, told Fox News that about 1,300 missing children have been found by the agency since the 2016 fiscal year.
“These are kids that are in particular danger as a result of either being victims of violent crime or because of who they are. For example, some of them may be in the middle of gang affiliations or in the midst of drug abusers or in the middle of some bad situations involving people who have violent tendencies and things of that sort,” he said.
And in September, Ivanka Trump and Attorney General William Barr, meanwhile, announced $100 million in new funding allocated by the Department of Justice to combat human trafficking.