FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Ohio — The latest data from the Human Trafficking Hotline shows the state of Ohio is in the top five in the nation for the number of cases reported.
Officials with the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office recently crammed into a hotel room waiting for suspects to engage with their undercover officer.
“They dress it up as if this room is being used for prostitution,” said Sgt. John Warner of the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office.
The work is part of an operation with the sheriff’s department and the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force. The sheriff's department reached out to the State Attorney General's Office for help with training to crackdown on prostitution and using undercover officers.
But it isn't enough to just show up in the hotel room. There needs to be some sort of exchange, whether that's cash, drugs, or someone bringing food, which is when police can bust in.
“Limiting the supply of females that engage in this type of behavior is tough, and limiting the demand for it, we're able to target and deter,” said Sgt. Warner.
The men arrested were of all different ages, races and backgrounds. Columbus Police even saying one of the men played football professionally. The sheriff's office performed a similar operation last Friday and arrested seven suspects. This Friday, officers arrested 16 suspects.
“As we're finding out tonight, it's a lot bigger than what I would've assumed,” said Sgt. Warner.
After the suspects are caught, part of the operation is having them speak with counselors, to keep this from happening again.
The 23 men arrested Friday night will be charged with engaging in prostitution, unless they had a gun on them, which three of them did, according to officials. Some of the men could face additional charges ranging from possession of drugs to carrying concealed weapons.
Then there are felony charges. Authorities say two of the men also had drugs on them. Five grams of meth and five grams of cocaine were found, which is also a felony charge.
“In the last several years that I can remember, we had just a handful that were booked into the county jail on the charge of engaging in prostitution, so we can triple that last week and it's five times this week,” said Sgt. Warner.
Those just charged with the misdemeanor will be able to get out of Fairfield County Jail on a $500 bond.
Some of the men 10TV spoke with said this was their first time seeking out a prostitute or their first time getting caught.
Last year, the Human Trafficking Institute said Ohio was ranked as the second-highest state when it came to new offenders.