Now, one small sheriff’s department has done something to stop it, by posing as a prostitute online in order to catch and arrest over 200 offenders, revealing many unexpected perpetrators in the process.
Undercover Sting Operation Arrests 227 People Involved in Human Trafficking
Florida police arrested 227 individuals after conducting a sex sting operation by posing as ‘adult industry workers’ online.
Operation ‘No tricks, no treats’ began October 10 and ran to October 15. Individuals at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida posed either as ‘prostitutes’ or ‘clients’ soliciting adult industry workers on websites and social media sites.
Investigators reported that 209 of the arrests were for individuals accused of ‘soliciting undercover detectives’ and 51 arrests were made for individuals that displayed themselves as prostitutes online. There were 17 arrests made for other related offenses. NBC News has publicized a complete list of all individuals arrested- you can view the names here.
Perhaps the most surprising arrest was that of Sgt. Luis Diaz, an individual who has worked at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years.
“We are absolutely embarrassed. We hold our own accountable. He messed up and no longer works for the Sheriff’s Office” were the words of Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Judd identified some of the other suspects arrested as a cancer surgeon, teacher, pediatrician, Air Force veteran, retired deputy sheriff, retired police officer, an active colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and several pharmacists. They range in age from 16 to 74 years old.
According to Judd, this operation accumulated to the highest number of human trafficking arrests made in one operation in the history of the sheriff’s office.
“We are committed to fighting human trafficking, by arresting those who engage in prostitution and trying to identify human trafficking victims” Judd said.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, with approximately 700,000 persons annually trafficked within or across US international borders. The victims range in age and demographics and are as prevalent in rural areas and suburbs as they are in cities. These victims are largely targeted using tailored methods of recruitment and control to be compelled into forced labor or commercial sex. Some of the victims are kept locked away in brothels, while others are free to walk around and interact, and that includes soliciting on the Internet.
Human Trafficking is a Problem that Needs to Stop
In the United States, human trafficking is illegal and efforts, like those seen at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, are underway to catch and arrest perpetrators. However, many individuals and organizations remain underground, hidden from the eye of the law.
The global adult industry is the fastest growing form of commerce, worth $32 billion annually. Human trafficking is the fastest growing area of organized crime, with the third largest income after narcotics and firearms. This means that the perpetrators will go a long way to ensure that the business stays up and running, and one of the best ways to ensure that is to choose highly vulnerable victims.
Those at a Higher Risk of Coercion
There is no single profile for human trafficking victims. Victims can span all ages and socio-demographic backgrounds. However, there are some circumstances and vulnerabilities that seem to be more susceptible to victimization and human trafficking.
Women and Children
Although there are men involved in the human trafficking trade as victims, women and children make up a much higher percentage. Approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States each year .
Runaways and Homeless Youth
Runaway and homeless youth that lacks a strong support system are often targeted by human traffickers. The traffickers will often approach youth at transportation hubs, shelters or other public places. Many traffickers will pretend to be a significant other and offer affection to manipulate vulnerable victims to elicit sex commercially.
Foreign nationals make up a large percentage of sex trafficking victims, and they have a unique situation that leaves them more susceptible to human trafficking. Often times, a recruiter from a home country will facilitate visas, pay airfare and living expenses for a foreign victim, leaving the victim indebted to the recruiter. These prices are often vastly inflated, giving the individual no choice but to cooperate. The victim’s lack of knowledge, cultural understanding and language allow the trafficker to maintain complete authority over the individual.
Individuals Who Have Experienced Trauma or Violence
Individuals who have experienced trauma or violence in the past are more likely to be targeted by traffickers because of the chance of lingering psychological effects. Victims of domestic violence, assault, war and conflict, or social discrimination may all be targeted by traffickers who recognize the vulnerabilities left by prior abusers .
What’s Being Done to Stop Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a global issue affecting all areas and civilizations of the world. The battle to stop trafficking has been ongoing, and there are a number of legislation and tactics put into place within our own country to put a stop to it.
In March 2012, President Barack Obama voiced his concern about human trafficking in America in a moving speech and outlined new initiatives to combat the growing business.
Executive Order Strengthening
The President issued an Executive Order to strengthen the already zero-tolerance policy on human trafficking. The Order outlines prohibitions on trafficking-related activities that will apply federal contractors and subcontractors.
Tools and Training to Identify and Assist Victims
The Administration provided human trafficking training to federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials, immigration judges, commercial transportation officials, and to state workforce agencies and educators. This training allows the professionals to be better equipped to recognize human trafficking and to help ensure the safety of the victims .
Increased Resources for Victims
The Administration vowed to expand services and legal assistance to victims of human trafficking as well as streamlining the T-visa process to allow the victims to remain in the United States .
In addition to these initiatives, President Obama also introduced a number of campaigns to raise public awareness towards the problem of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a global issue that doesn’t just affect far-away lands. It is a problem that is knocking on our back door and affecting those around us. The first step in fighting this battle is to educate yourself and raise awareness. Many of the victims of human trafficking are, in fact, victims who desperately want to get out of their terrible situation. By providing them with support and love we are better able to move towards a future with no slavery, as we always intended.
 National Human Trafficking Hotline. The Victims. Retrieved on November 1, 2017, from https://humantraffickinghotline.org/what-human-trafficking/human-trafficking/victims
 Fox News. (October 18, 2017). Undercover Sex Sting Operation Leads to 277 Arrests. Retrieved on November 1, 2017, from https://nypost.com/2017/10/18/undercover-sex-sting-operation-leads-to-277-arrests/
 US Government Printing Office. (2000) Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Retrieved on November 1, 2017, from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-106publ386/html/PLAW-106publ386.htm
 Neha A Deshpande, BA, Nawal M Nour, MD, MPH. (2013). Sex Trafficking of Women and Girls. Retrieved on November 1, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3651545/#B3
 Office of the Press Secretary. (September 25, 2012). Fact Sheet: The Obama Administration Announces Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking at Home and Abroad. Retrieved on November 1, 2017, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2012/09/25/fact-sheet-obama-administration-announces-efforts-combat-human-trafficki