HOUSTON (Covering Katy News)—A sting conducted by multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Katy Police Department, has resulted in the arrests of 47 people on human trafficking charges, officials announced in a Wednesday morning news conference.
Houston Police Sgt. John Wall said the sting operation ran from March 19-29 in the Katy area and Fort Bend County.
The Katy Police Department was part of a 22-member group of federal, state, and local agencies to perform the operation. Other agencies included the Harris County Pct. 5 Constable’s Office, the Houston Police Department, and the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance of the Southern District of Texas.
The alliance is a collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that work with area social service organizations to identify and assist human trafficking victims. They also arrest and prosecute traffickers. The alliance was created in 2004.
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Wall said of the 47 arrests, 27 were female and 20 were male. Eight were charged with human trafficking-related offenses, while eight others were confirmed victims.
Officials said some suspects faced various other charges, including possession of a controlled substance, prostitution, sexual assault of a child, tampering with evidence, and unlawfully carrying a weapon.
Wall said despite the large number of arrests, the most rewarding part of the investigation was that authorities rescued two minors, the youngest was 16-years-old.
Officers said most people who become trafficking victims are domestic. Most recruiting occurs online.
“If you think about it, children (and) young adults spend an enormous amount of time on social media, and they are vulnerable,” Wall said. “They don’t understand the risk involved in talking to individuals they don’t know on that type of forum.”
A misperception people have about trafficking is that it is only an inner-city issue. But J.B. Dale, Houston Police Department Vice Division commander, said this is not so.
“It happens everywhere,” Dale said. “Nobody’s immune to it.”
Wall said trafficking happens in suburban and smaller communities. He said for this operation, officials looked at communities in Harris County and communities that bordered Harris County. He said officials culled intelligence from various sources to best decide how to use their resources.
Anyone who is a human trafficking victim, or thinks there might be suspicious activity going on in their area, is asked to contact the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or the Katy Police Department at 281-391-4848.
“We are here to help,” Wall said. “We understand (trafficking victims) are scared to come forward, but we are going to do everything in our power to keep them safe, give them the services that they need to move forward in life. And, at the end of the day, we hope we can put the trafficker where he belongs, and that’s in prison.”
See the news conference courtesy of KPRC TV.