QAnon And Human Trafficking
Around 50 law enforcement agencies were involved in the latest anti-human trafficking operation in Ohio, the largest ever.
177 people were arrested and 109 survivors were rescued.
In an unrelated case, a Portsmouth attorney was arrested over the weekend and faces charges of human trafficking and promoting prostitution.
Allegations and conspiracy theories about human trafficking and child abuse, many of them originating with the bogus online entity QAnon, have exploded this election season. The state's chief law enforcement officer admits he's concerned about it. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.
Attorney General Dave Yost said Operation Autumn Hope brought in federal, state and local law enforcement to rescue survivors, recover missing kids, catch people seeking sex with minors – usually considered rape – and arresting men seeking to buy sex. Yost says the problem is still a serious one, with traffickers moving through Ohio and what he calls homegrown operations.
“We’ve been doing these human trafficking stings for a while now, and yet, we don’t have any diminution of demand.”
45 of the 109 survivors rescued were children. The operation did not include the recent indictment of former Portsmouth city councilmember Michael Mearan, who’s accused of 18 felony charges related to another human trafficking investigation.
QAnon promoters, who strongly support President Trump, have also have been holding rallies and posting on social media under the banner of “save the children”. Yost says QAnon is “a conflation of miscellaneous facts and wild imagination” and that it’s unsupported and “doesn’t hold up under scrutiny”. He says he’s never been involved in an operation where QAnon interfered or played a role, but also says it’s a hindrance.
“It’s simply that the flow of information, the reporting of observations can be skewed from the general public.”
Other experts on human trafficking have said the hijacking of the concerns about missing and exploited children by QAnon could derail the work they’re doing.