TAMPA, FL (Hillsborough County) - According to an arrest report published on WFLA.com, local and state law enforcement officials are going to hold many special events this Monday to kick-off Human Trafficking Awareness Day. A press conference is planned to share the completion of a large human trafficking sting operation that was conducted in Tampa Bay, Florida.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the 2-year-long investigation into human trafficking in Tampa, Florida, resulted in 71 arrests. Sheriff Chad Chronister stated that the arrests occurred this past Monday morning. Sheriff Chronister said that Tampa Bay is not the only "hotspot" for human trafficking crimes. The Hillsborough County Sheriff stated that the entire State of Florida is a hotspot for human trafficking and sex crimes. He stated that because Florida has a warmer climate, people are more likely to be outdoors and walk around.
Hillsborough County Sheriff stated last week that they are starting a new program to help protect students from becoming human trafficking victims. Sheriff Chronister explained that the most challenging tasks are far from over because the Super Bowl is less than a month away. In any large event such as this one, human traffickers will be preparing for big business.
The Tampa airport is also on board and is displaying digital billboards that let tourists know about human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Ashley Moody, Florida's Attorney General, stated that the hotel industry is planning to stop all human trafficking activities ahead of the Super Bowl. Florida's "No Room for Trafficking Program" is designed to inform and train thousands of hotel workers to identify and help stop human trafficking.
The month-long human trafficking sting operation by Hillsborough County Sherriff's Officer utilized undercover detectives, and this operation led to the arrest of 71 suspects on sex crimes. However, the Sherriff doesn't believe the operation will slow down the "Johns" during the Super Bowl next month. The operation led to the arrest of an active duty military members, a Christian schoolteacher, two registered sex predators, construction workers, a banker, and a teacher.
Sheriff Chad Chronister also stated that the men arrested in the sting operation had one thing in common. These suspect didn't care if the women they intended to engage in sex with were being exploited or were being "forced to sell their bodies against their will."
"Operation Interception" included female undercover detectives posing as prostitutes and detectives posting online advertisements offering sex services. The suspects ranged in ages from 20 to 62. All were men. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, one of the registered sex offenders arrested in the undercover operation was found guilty in a 2011 "using the internet to solicit a child for sex" charges, and one count of "traveling to meet the minor for sex" in Citrus County, Florida.
The month of January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the State of Florida. Florida ranks third in the country for human trafficking.