Police in Florida have arrested over 100 people in an undercover human trafficking operation.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office operated Operation Trade Secrets 2 over a 5-month period and done 104 arrests. Of those individuals, 76 were men and 28 were women working in the trade. Among January and June of this year, the department operated the first part of Operation Trade Secrets, also tried at cracking down on human trafficking.
Sheriff Chad Chronister drew attention to what he called two of the “more despicable” cases the force confronted.
On June 21, police detained Jason Fitzgerald, 36, and Luis Colon, 29, after they attempted to purchase a 13-year-old girl from an undercover officer.
A deputy pretended as the stepfather of a 14-year-old girl attempting to sell her for lewd acts at a trailer park in north Tampa. The men fixed a time to meet up with the child to perform acts that are “so repulsive that I won’t even begin to describe them,” Chronister told. The suspects negotiated a price to have physical contact with the girl, he told.
“When they were informed that they could have their pick with a 14-year-old or a 13-year-old girl who was also inside the trailer, they immediately jumped at the chance to be with the even younger child. Predators like this don’t belong on the streets in Hillsborough County,” stated Chronister.
The stings noticed woman detectives acting as workers and men as buyers, the sheriff stated.
In the run-up to major upcoming events such as the Superbowl, WrestleMania, and the Final Four, Chronister told the force wants to make it obvious that human trafficking will not be allowed in Hillsborough County.
The operation targeted buyers, Chronister told. Counselors were transferred to jails to talk to the 28 women to recognize if they could be “brave and bold enough” to break the cycle which has to lead them to engage in lewd acts. He pointed out many women depend on traffickers to feed addictions, and for clothes, food, and money.
Throughout the first phase of the operation prior this year, the department detained 85 individuals.