A massive law enforcement operation in Ohio called Operation Autumn Hope has resulted in the arrest of 179 people under suspicion of human trafficking, and the rescue of 109 victims, 45 of whom were missing children. Some victims were as young as 14 or 15 years old. The victims were referred to social services, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
Over 50 law enforcement agencies took part in the operation, which allowed officers to make arrests and rescues in different counties.
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, according to 10TV.
One arrest and rescue was even conducted during a traffic stop in nearby West Virginia.
Peter Tobin, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio thanked all the officers who helped out with the operation, and confidently said that their actions have made a difference in a lot of lives.
Sgt. Dana Hess, director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, said that this operation highlights how many victims are out there.
“These vulnerable members of our population usually slip through the cracks. This operation highlighted the vast number of potential victims and allowed law enforcement the opportunity to make contact and link them to services,” Hess said.
This is just one of many similar operations that have taken place across the state, and the entire country in recent years.
Over the past five years, the US Marshal Service (USMS) has recovered missing children in 75% of the cases it has received. And of those recovered, 72% were recovered within 7 days. Since 2005, the USMS has recovered more than 2,000 missing children. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 enhanced the U.S. Marshals’ authority to assist federal, state and local law enforcement with the recovery of missing, endangered or abducted children, regardless of whether a fugitive or sex offender was involved. The Marshals established a Missing Child Unit to oversee and manage the implementation of its enhanced authority under the act.