There is a new focus in cracking down on sex for sale in Columbus: targeting the men who keep the sex trade alive with their dollars.
In a typical year, 1,000 women are arrested for selling sex in Franklin County and just 60 men arrested for buying it.
The Columbus Division of Police's Chief of Police said that's about to change.
Police and people who prosecute prostitution in Columbus are changing the way they combat it. They are looking at women who sell sex as victims sold for someone else's pleasure and profit.
"It's not a victimless crime," said Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs. "Even if you have agreed to the act, most women are not engaged in this because it's what they want to do."
If they are victims, why are they arrested so much more frequently than the men who willingly break the law by buying sex?
Chief Jacobs said a big reason is not enough female officers on the force to target "johns".
"They have to pretend like they're a prostitute. And then get them to say all the right words so we can make the arrest. We videotape. We audiotape. We are in the vicinity to do the arrest and the takedown. So it takes a team of officers to make those all work." Chief Jacobs said.
Jacobs said arresting a prostitute is a much simpler and less labor-intensive process.
"A male officer can go out there, get a prostitute in his car, and say 'this is what I want'. She says 'ok'. Now it's done."
Despite the challenges of targeting johns, Chief Jacobs has ordered her officers to do just that.
"Is it a supply problem or a demand problem? I choose to believe it's a demand problem. If people weren't demanding it, there would be no market," said Chief Jacobs.
Judge Paul Herbert agrees.
He runs CATCH Court, a specialty docket that helps women who've been trafficked break free from the streets.
He says it's time to focus on the men.
"I think we ought to enlist as many powerful people as we can. Get Urban Meyer up on a billboard saying 'not in my town', with Mayor Coleman standing next to him. And let everybody know that when you come to Columbus, Ohio, and you want to buy a young girl, you're going to get in trouble for it." Judge Herbert said.
Chief Jacob's new mandate is already producing results.
In the first half of this year, more men have been arrested for buying sex than in all of last year.
Columbus Police reports 57 men were arrested in the last month.
For an in-depth look inside CATCH Court and the effort to help prostitutes begin new lives: www.10TV.com/10TVNewsPresents
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