Updated October 4, 2021 at 2:55 PM EST
A week-long human trafficking sting across Ohio last week has led to the arrest of 161 men who prosecutors say were attempting to buy sex, and the recovery of 10 missing children.
The men arrested included a city council member, a firefighter, a teacher, a professor and a pilot, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said during a press conference Monday to reveal the results from Operation Ohio Knows.
Authorities say three of the men arrested were attempting to buy sex from someone they believed to be a minor.
“This is the largest human trafficking sting in the history of the state to date,” he said.
Columbus Firefighter Andrew Bartnikowski was among those arrested. The Columbus Division of Fire has released the following statement:
"We have been made aware of criminal allegations against one of our members. The Division of Fire works very hard to make sure the women and men we employ are trusted without question by the public we serve when we respond to calls for assistance. The charges against this firefighter are disappointing and not acceptable by our division standards. The member named will be given due process through the criminal court system as well as face an administrative investigation to determine rules and regulations violations. Any division charges or discipline will be a result of that investigation."
The operation also resulted in 50 arrests of men and women who prosecutors say were offering to sell sex. Law enforcement officers interviewed 51 potential human trafficking victims, who were provided services from health care and social services organizations.
While Yost acknowledged arrests as a key part of solving the issue of human trafficking, he went on to say, “we cannot arrest our way out of human trafficking.” Yost said while Operation Ohio focused on the buying of sex, he highlighted the need to reduce the demand for purchased sex.
“If there is no market, if there are no buyers, there will be no trafficking,” Yost said. “Reducing the demand means we reduce the number of people who are victimized by human trafficking.”
Yost also thanked the human and social service agencies who worked alongside law enforcement to aid human trafficking victims.