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WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio | Columbus News, Weather & Sports |

45 missing children found, 109 human trafficking survivors rescued in Ohio operation

Ohio Attorney General David Yost said more than 50 agencies were involved in Operation Autumn Hope

Forty-five missing children were recovered in Ohio by the U.S. Marshals (USMS) as part of an October operation called “Autumn Hope.”

Ohio Attorney General David Yost said this is the largest anti-human trafficking effort in state history.

Yost said more than 50 agencies were involved in the operation resulting in the rescue of 109 human trafficking survivors and 177 arrests.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office said 157 men were arrested on charges of soliciting and other crimes in Franklin, Cuyahoga and Lucas Counties.

Yost said the operation focused on four main points:

  • 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
  • Arresting male johns seeking to buy sex

Ohio Attorney General David Yost and other law enforcement agencies addressed the operation at a press conference on Monday:

10TV cameras were invited to go out with Columbus police during the operation.

In a three-day sting, Columbus police focused on the west side, Linden, Sullivant and Parsons Avenues looking for victims of human trafficking. Undercover officers worked with uniformed officers who would make the arrests.

While this is the second year for this type of round-up, it is the first for Columbus Police's PACT, or Police and Community Together, unit. 

Deputy Chief Jennifer Knight the focus is on getting the women help and get them off the streets.

“Our goal is to make survivors of each and every one of them,” Knight said. 

Groups like RREACT and forensic nurses were on-hand as the women were arrested. They were given a meal and any medical treatment they needed. They were also offered help with any addictions. 

Ruth Downing is a forensic nurse and says these women won't go to a hospital to get the medical care they need. 

“Victims of violence have for many years not received the care they need," Downing said.

During the operation, Columbus police made 80 arrests and recovered several guns. Of those arrests, 50 were from the PACT unit including 40 women and 10 men.

The Mahoning Valley Human Trafficking Task Force arrested 22 people accused of seeking to have sex with a minor.

Of those 22, eight were apprehended by the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

About 20 additional missing children cases were also cleared.