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23 arrests in Toledo during national child sex trafficking sting

It was a busy weekend for police and the FBI as a national sweep targeting child sex trafficking wrapped up Saturday.
Image source: MGN Online

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - It was a busy weekend for police and the FBI as a national sweep targeting child sex trafficking wrapped up Saturday. Toledo Police and the local branch of the FBI were part of the sweep, called "Operation Cross Country," and 23 arrests were made in Toledo.

Those arrested are now facing state charges.

Nationally, 150 pimps were arrested and 105 children were rescued in 76 cities. One of those children was recovered in Toledo.

"It's part social work and it's part law enforcement, but it's tremendously satisfying when we find a victim who's under the control of a violent pimp and you're able to extract them from that environment and get them back in a safe place," said David Dustin, a supervisory special agent for the FBI in Toledo. "So the long hours are well worth it when we actually have those recoveries."

The sting targeted any areas known for prostitution activity and identified the young victims.

"For the people that are out there that are thinking about being involved in this type of activity, it sends a pretty strong message that anywhere you go, you're going to be getting the attention of the federal government," said Dustin.

Mary Schmidbauer, the co-chair of the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition, calls all involved victims, even if they turned to a life on the street to escape troubles at home.

"That demand has to end, that it needs to stop, that our children aren't for sale or our children can't be sold or bought," she said.

Schmidbauer is also the program director for Second Chance, which provides support services for local human trafficking victims. She says Operation Cross Country will only be a success if the victims get the help they need and never end up in the sex trade again.

"And it's a very difficult process, so to say that they have been 'rescued' is making light of a situation that's going to take them a lot of time to recover from," she said.

Agents say although the sweep is over, the fight against this problem isn't.

"We're really looking to find and arrest and convict people that are basically exploiting innocent children, or other innocent victims - it doesn't have to be just children," said TPD Lt. Mark King. "We know that there are a lot of adult victims out there, too, that are forced into prostitution and sexual slavery. And we're not going to stop at any cost to arrest and find them."

If you have any information on people involved in any kind of prostitution, call Toledo Police or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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