Sex trafficking bust yields 138 arrests in Houston

- Houston authorities have arrested 138 suspects in a major two-month sex trafficking bust.

“We want the word to get out to the johns and the pimps that Harris County and Houston is not a free-for-all. You can solicit a woman, you might very well be soliciting an undercover officer,” said Captain Dan Harris with HPD’s Vice Division

In this operation, those undercover officers were from the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff's Office in a joint initiative they called “Operation Traveling Circus.”

The operation happened from January 4th through February 26th and traveled through some busy areas of Houston including Westheimer and Airport Blvd.

Police arrested more than 380 people in total -- 138 of those are the men charged with soliciting and the others were the women, the victims of prostitution and trafficking.

“A traffic person is typically lured by a promise of a lucrative job, stability, education or a loving relationship into a situation,” said a spokesperson with YMCA, which is helping to provide prevention and recovery resources to victims.

Harris County DA Devon Anderson's office stressed that the women who were arrested and not identified as sex trafficking victims are charged but still receive counseling and help. If they complete the program and stay out of trouble, their cases can be dismissed.

“Arrest as a means of recovery, not conviction. And for those as human trafficking victims, their cases are dismissed, and they are dependent on outside services outside the criminal justice system for support,” said Ann Johnson with the Harris County DA’s Office.

Police said it's important to lower the demand for trafficking, especially with all the visitors Houston will receive from future sports events.

“With the advent of several large sporting events, such as the Final Four coming to our area in the near future to be followed up by the Super Bowl next year, we intend to let the public know that human trafficking will not be tolerated in our area,” said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman.

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