Ohio law enforcement agencies worked together to close a monthlong probe, Operation Autumn Hope, which ended in 177 arrests and the rescue of 45 missing children. WBTV notes that in total, 109 human trafficking survivors were rescued.
Cincinnati.com reports that over 50 law enforcement and social service agencies collaborated during the investigation. When describing how important the inquiry was, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus, calling Autumn Hope the largest operation of its kind in the state’s history.
“A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he said. “What you do to least of these, you've done it to me.”
The operation saw U.S. Marshals close 76 missing and exploited children cases; of those, 45 children were physically recovered, and it was discovered that the rest found their way home on their own.
According to the attorney general’s office, the operation’s four major concerns were “rescuing victims of human trafficking and referring them to social services, recovering missing and exploited children, apprehending those seeking to have sex with a minor” and “arresting male johns seeking to buy sex.”
Most of the arrests took place in the Toledo, Cleveland, and Columbus areas, with 157 of the arrests occurring in the three counties where those cities span.
“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!”