Columbus police target men buying sex; Sting nets wide range of suspects

File photo - Police lights (WBNS-10TV)
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A middle school principal, a police sergeant, a Hilliard dentist, a restaurant owner and a top official with the Ohio National Guard - all of them caught in a prostitution sting.

Columbus Police say they and 22 other men answered an online ad for sex, and showed up at an Easton hotel, cash in hand.

Police say targeting "johns" is part of their effort to reduce the demand keeping the sex trade alive.

Heather Mohrman spent five years working in Franklin County's CATCH Court, a specialty docket focused on prostitution.

She currently works on the "demand" side of the issue, running a so-called "John School" aimed at reducing repeat customers who buy sex.

She says the subject is clouded by myths and misunderstanding.

About those who sell their bodies:

"Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, 'I can't wait to give 10 men oral sex by noon. And it doesn't matter who they are, what they look like, what they smell like. That doesn't exist."

And about the men keeping the sex trade alive with their dollars:

"Then we look at our stats, it's 'every man.' It's your neighbor next door who waters his lawn every morning, who goes to a normal job downtown every day, who has children, who has a spouse, who has been married for 25 years."

A point reinforced by the results of a recent Columbus Police sting.

Investigators say 27 men responded to an online ad for sex and showed up to the Easton Hilton.

Among the men accused:

  • A middle school principal
  • A dentist with a practice in Hilliard
  • The owner of a well-known local restaurant.
  • A Toledo police sergeant.
  • An Upper Arlington attorney
  • And a high ranking official with the Ohio National Guard

Mohrman says this is far from a victimless crime. And consent isn't consent when it's driven by sickness and basic survival.

"I've worked with over a thousand women and a few men who are soliciting in Franklin County. It is 99 percent of the time driven by an addiction, and especially in 2018, that addiction being heroin."

With that in mind, she supports treatment for those selling sex and prosecution plus treatment for those buying.

She believes strongly in the shift by Columbus Police, focused more on the Johns, and equity in enforcement.

"I believe it was 2012; we had a thousand women arrested in Franklin County, I think 24 men. There's something extremely wrong about that. When you are trying to purchase commercial sex, there is a complete detachment that that person is a human. And I think that is what these men sell out to. They sell out to the idea that somebody can be bought."

10TV also spoke with a victim's advocate who works with human trafficking survivors.

She says the men who buy sex are actually more powerful than the pimps and traffickers.

Like any other business, if people stop buying, there goes the profit, and the lifeblood that keeps the sex industry alive.

Mohrman's non-profit, Reduce Demand, offers First Time Offender Classes and linkage to treatment/counseling for men. For more information, click here.

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Related Coverage:​ CATCH Court Changing Way Law Looks At Sex Trade Business